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Viola Davis responds to #BoycottWomanKing: Story 'is fictionalized. It has to be'

Carlos De Loera, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Cats & Dogs News

Oscar winner Viola Davis has responded to critics of her latest film, "The Woman King," after they called for a boycott of the movie because it isn't entirely historically accurate.

The film follows the story of the all-female military unit, known as the Agojie, that guarded the West African kingdom of Dahomey from the 17th to 19th centuries.

"First of all, I agree with [the film's director] Gina Prince-Bythewood's saying is you're not going to win an argument on Twitter," Davis said of the criticism in an interview with Variety. "We entered the story where the kingdom was in flux, at a crossroads. They were looking to find some way to keep their civilization and kingdom alive. It wasn't until the late 1800s that they were decimated. Most of the story is fictionalized. It has to be."

Julius Tennon, one of the movie's producers and Davis' husband, also talked about the criticism.

"It's history but we have to take license. We have to entertain people. If we just told a history lesson, which we very well could have, that would be a documentary," Tennon said. "We didn't want to shy away from the truth. The history is massive and there are truths on that that are there. If people want to learn more, they can investigate more."

The main point of contention by online critics is that the movie seemingly uplifts the woman without fully acknowledging that the Dahomey tribe sold other Africans into slavery.

"Time to Boycott the Woman King movie. The film is about the Dahomey & Benin that traded slaves into the transatlantic. #BoycottWomanKing," tweeted @tonetalks. "This may be the most offensive film to Black Americans in 40-50 years."

Twitter user @EqualityEd wrote, "Let's be honest folk. It's movie about a African tribe famous for selling slaves to Europeans that was made into a female empowerment story by two White women writers. You don't have to be very 'woke' to see the problem here. #BoycottWomanKing."

Dana Stevens and Maria Bello, both white women, are credited as the storywriters of the movie.


Others online defended the movie.

"Y'all want to boycott a movie that is literally ABOUT the thing you're complaining about," tweeted @JazminTruesdale. "The movie speaks on how EVERYONE (including African tribes) participated in the slave trade and it's specific impact on black women. It's a Masterpiece!"

@lmona823 tweeted, "Do NOT #BoycottWomanKing Instead, learn more. The movie delves into the horrors of the slave trade and how it affected black women, especially. It doesn't glorify slavery, it condemns it."

Historian and Howard University professor Ana Lucia Araujo wrote about the history of the Dahomey in a recent Slate article.

"In 1727, Dahomey conquered the Kingdom of Hueda, who lived along the coast, and took control of the port city of Ouidah, inaugurating its active participation in the Atlantic slave trade," Araujo wrote. "Historians estimated that nearly one million enslaved Africans were put on ships to the Americas in Ouidah between 1659 and 1863. The port was the second largest supplier of African captives to the trade, behind only Luanda, in today's Angola."

The film's director, Prince-Bythewood, told the Los Angeles Times that she immersed herself in the history of the Dahomey and reached out to historians to consult.

"I'd read this article in the Washington Post that was written by a descendant of these women, and so we reached out to him," Prince-Bythewood said of Princeton professor Le—onard Wantchekon. "He's an academic and scholar about Benin and the kingdom and he was such an incredible consultant for us. He has a whole team that we were able to reach out to anytime we had a question about food, dress, politics in the kingdom … they knew everything."


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