The Woman King
A few days ago the first photos from Viola Davis's movie, The Woman King, were released. The movie centers on a Mino general, the leader of the warrior women of the Kingdom of Dahomey. These are the real life women who inspired the Dora Milaje of Black Panther. These are also the women who inspired Sword and Soul creator and author Charles R. Saunders to create Dossouye, the first Black woman Sword and Sorcery character. I too was inspired by these amazing women. They were the foundation of my character Sadatina, from my novel Woman of the Woods. To say that I'm excited to see this movie is an understatement. It's rare to see a historical fiction movie based on African history, especially focused on kingdom that stood against the European powers under the scrutiny of the entire world.
Although I've very happy to see this movie come to the big screen, I have to admit I'm a little envious. Let me tell you why. In 2016 my friend Kecia Stovall contacted me. She was mentoring under the tutelage of Willie Simmons, a man who had been a very active associate producer in Hollywood during the 90s. Willie had worked on a number of successful films during this time, most notably Lethal Weapon, Weird Science and Deep Cover. Willie was developing a project and was looking for someone to write the script. It was a project based on African history, so Kecia suggested me. Willie was interested, so we got in contact.
We hit it off right off the bat. Both of us were former martial artists, and both of us had a deep respect and interest in Africa and its history. It was then Willie shared his idea with me. He wanted to do a movie based on the Mino. I was excited and nervous at the same time. As I mentioned earlier, I was very familiar with the Mino and their exploits. However, I'd never written a script before, and realizing that this project would be based on my words was intimidating. I became more intimidated as the project moved forward. Willie had been very active in Hollywood, and had worked with almost every Black person active during that time. He began contacting his old friends and setting up meetings. It culminated with a meeting at the home of one of Willie's friends who was a former ambassador to Benin, once known as Dahomey. Another person at the meeting was the owner of a large dance group from Guinea. The plan was to use his dancers as actors in the movie and to film the movie in Guinea. Willie wanted me to visit Guinea and Benin so I could get a true sense of the history and land. As I sat there conversing with these men, I kept my excitement hidden. This was going to be big.
And then Black Panther was released. At first we saw this as a boost. There were the Dora Milaje, a fictional derivative of the women we wanted to honor, on center stage. Unfortunately, we weren't the only people excited by their depiction. Not long after the movie's success, at least three movie projects based on the Mino were announced, one being Viola Davis's The Woman King. It was then Willie decided to call off the project. He knew the people behind these projects and felt they would be able to get the funds to make it happen far easier that we would. So that was that.
But I still had a ton of research I'd done and a premise for a story. As a matter of fact, I had two ideas. I let the project sit for a while before deciding to continue it as a novel. There was just too much information and too good a story for me to let it drop. So now the plan is for me to write that novel as my second historical fiction novel. I've commissioned cover art, and I have a story that I think you'll enjoy.
So you can see why I'm a little envious, but at the same time I'm really excited. I'm looking forward to how they tell the story of the Mino, what they include and what they leave out, and what new revelations they have in store. I know it's Hollywood, and they will take creative license, but I have confidence in Viola Davis and Gina Prince-Bythewood, who I felt did a great job directing Old Guard. Of course the usual naysayers are already attacking the movie with the usual assumptions. I say wait until its released. I would also say take the time to learn about not only the Mino, but the kingdom of Dahomey if you already haven't. It will make the experience richer and you'll be better informed.