The history of slavery told through the eyes of the enslaver is great. But completely unreal. It seems that this is obvious in the 21st century. But no. The white European narrative, romanticized and lying, is still strong, which inserted in the common sense of the colonized nations a heroic image of the well of human weaknesses that is the white man.
The real story is not yet in the public domain for a very strong reason: it is horrible, cruel and bloodthirsty. And worst of all, it’s more alive than ever.
But how to break with alienation and allow blackness to know fully and without any kind of fantasies or manipulations about its own history?
Cinema is a good way, because it moves the imagination and acts directly on the collective unconscious, even when mixed with fiction, after all, only art to make us bear the weight of a past that has not yet passed, right?
But in that sense, that of using art as a remedy for historical pain, Viola Davis’ new film inevitably failed.
Because there is no artistic competence that can alleviate the centuries of suffering and exploitation of black existence. Nor are there any cinematic features advanced enough to assuage the hatred and contempt that the world still directs towards us women of color.
But still the film is necessary. And it brings the courage that only black Americans can have in addressing historical pain. In fact, this was the ace in their sleeve that saved them on some level, the racial consciousness fundamental to the formation of black pride. And that implies self-criticism and recognition of the host of the oppressor within us.
With this courage, “A Mulher Rei” (The Woman King) touches wounds that, especially in Brazil, no one is willing to even admit that they exist.
So let’s see:
We have conversation circles about black masculinity with all kinds of lamentations, but none of them discuss, for example, the machismo of the black man and its manifestations that turn against themselves. The film puts this up for debate.
Absolute taboo subject, still! Who wants to discuss what it is to be brown (light skin/bi-racial/mixed) and the advantages contained in this racial condition? Not Brazil, but the film, yes.
And let’s talk about how much the colonizer’s greed and arrogance impregnated the soul of a good part of the colonized and destroyed the intraracial relations of blackness? Are we going to talk about blacks who sold other blacks (ours) because they succumbed to the seduction of money and excessive ambition? Are we going to talk about the self-hatred that prevents black people from actually living the real meaning of collectivity and ancestry? Brazil does not want to, and the film does not escape the theme. The rivalry between blackness exists and is the main opposing force in the fight against racism, at least in Brazil.
Here, the colonizer’s behavior is ingrained in the black soul. Sergio Camargo and Fernando Holiday is just the tip of an iceberg that Paulo Freire described very well in the concept of subpression. Maybe that’s why Brazil is one of the focuses of publicity for this film. Will it be?
The fact is that the African Kingdom of Dahomey existed and is the backdrop for the satisfying script by Dana Stevens, which gives the perfect pass for the competent direction of Gina Prince-Bythewood (The Old Guard).
The warriors Agojie (or Ahosi) also known as “Amazons of Dahomey” made up the female defense army of the Kingdom of Dahomey, where Benin is today, being the most feared women across the African continent. It’s not the first time they’ve been referenced in cinema. The Marvel classic, Black Panther, is the latest adaptation of the army of women warriors who reached a contingent of about 6000 warriors (about a third of the entire army of Dahomey), who fought hard against the wickedness of European men. and Africans to protect the kingdom and free captives to be sold in the slavery scheme.
It will be difficult for the feminism of white women, who mistakenly plead for equality to the detriment of equity, to understand the complexity of the relationships between men and women that the film suggests and which is much more guided by respect and recognition of opposing forces than by competition between fair sex and alpha male.
It is not new to see Viola Davis shining on the screens of the seventh art. As the warrior Nanisca, leader of the Agojie, it was no different. Sustaining emotions with just the look is not something for the average actress. It’s a giant thing. And we all know Davis is a giant, on and off the big screen.
But there’s always room for other giants and that’s where Viola’s grandeur is confirmed. Great is who can trust himself so much that he does not fear or belittle the strength of the other. Or the other in this case. Then we have the element of surprise that was due to the impeccable performances of Lashana Lynch (perfect as Izogie), Sheila Atim as Amenza and, Thuso Mbedu as the beautiful and fearless Nawi. The greatest beauty of the film is the reaffirmation that brotherly love strengthens and that when truly together, we are truly stronger.
The film is an important historical rescue by the hands of those who have the property to do so. And it deserves to be seen and discussed in the most obvious and complex nuances that the script suggests. It is a good antidote to the manifestation of “victimized identity” brought by the ever-present bell hooks, because it evokes the strength of the black woman. But let’s face it, it’s time for us to give ourselves the right to retire our weapons and let the world understand that our strength is also in sweetness and in the ability to love and be loved. It’s time to look for new ways and create conditions to receive the emotional nourishment that the world continues to deny us. This right to just exist in the most genuine human simplicity, far from the aura of the savior heroine or the black mother provider, the one who is only important as long as she satisfies the needs of others.
The narratives that reinforce the denial of our sensuality as a strategy to avoid the objectification of our bodies are also dangerous. Our power is in the manifestation of the erotic in us, as Audre Lorde said so well.
We cannot accept as fate what the racist and sexist world denies us. If we don’t put ourselves in that place, we will forever be at the forefront of the struggles, but who takes care of those who have always been forced to take care of?
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