In 1823, slavery still existed in Africa. Europeans were recruiting from the Oyo Empire, which in turn was trying to conquer the Dahomey Kingdom using firearms traded for slaves. The focus in the film is on the Agojie warriors, an army of female soldiers that consistently prevail in combat but oppose slavery despite Dahomey’s participation in the trade. Along with the head of Agojie, Nanisca (played by Viola Davis), the character with the most attention is Nawi (Thuso Mbedu), a defiant teenager who demonstrates considerable strength, often violating orders from Nanisca. Subplots ensue interrupted by battles, and vice versa, until one day the Dahomey army vanquishes the Oyos, whereupon youthful King Ghezo (John Boyega) names Nanisca his Woman King.
Directed by Gina Prince-Bythewood, The Woman King gives the impression that Dahomey ended the slave trade, but in fact the trade continued until Britain decided to colonize portions of West Africa and block the port of the slave trade in the 1840s. An American film, shooting was in South Africa. MH