With Viola Davis, ‘A Mulher Rei’ debuts in Brazil making historical past
The film, among other things, touches on complex subjects and even taboos such as pre-Western slavery and the collaboration of African elites with this system.
Last September 19th, the Copacabana Palace Theater, in Rio de Janeiro, experienced a historic moment that will be remembered for many years: the premiere of the film “The King Woman“, starring Viola Davis and distributed by Sony Pictures.
The film tells the story of Nanisca, an African general from the ancient Kingdom of Dahomey (present-day Benin) and her saga. The film, among other things, touches on complex subjects and even taboos such as pre-Western slavery (which was different from the racial slavery created by Europeans), the collaboration of African elites with this system and the tensions within these groups to end this form of oppression in the name of a pan-African and anti-colonial unity.
Returning to the Rio event, what caught the attention of all who were present was the fact that for the first time in recent history a black Hollywood star makes a premiere to a mostly black audience.
The carioca red carpet was, in a rare way, a black carpet, full of artists, writers, screenwriters and other Afro-Brazilian celebrities led by Taís Araújo and Lázaro Ramos, who were the hosts of the night. Among the names present at the event were Elisa Lucinda, Antônio Pitanga, Conceição Evaristo, as well as influencers such as Tia Má, Roger Cipó, Iuri Maçal and a few hundred others.
The event was a true manifesto in favor of black narratives in cinema, reaffirming a trend of successful black releases, with the film “Provisional Measure” by Lázaro Ramoswhich has won dozens of awards around the world and filled movie theaters all over Brazil and the nomination of “Marte Um”, a film by Minas Gerais filmmaker Gabriel Martis for the 2023 Oscars.
I have already written here in this column about the power of black cinema in 2020 and I believe that every prediction I made at the time is gradually being fulfilled. If Brazil makes room for this new crop of young (and not so young) filmmakers, screenwriters, producers and writers to adapt or create their stories for the movie screen, we can have a true “black Hollywood” in gestation here.
The night in Rio, our tropical “Los Angeles” (by the number of artists) was not only exciting, but certainly memorable. Seeing those stairs of one of the greatest symbols of the Carioca elite full of people of jet color, with their African smocks, ethnic necklaces and beautiful smiles only gave me hope that there is still hope for Brazilian cinema. People were there not only appreciating the beautiful work that Viola Davis, her husband and team created, but also looking for extra motivation to keep fighting for their jobs.
After all, as Viola said in her answer session after the end of the film, even in Hollywood she had to fight a lot with the producers for the film to exist and have the tone she wants, in this case, the protagonism of dark-skinned women. , with a lot of strength and melanin showing that we can tell any story, be it in the form of a documentary, drama or action.
In this sense, a well thought out and targeted marketing plan to include the black population makes all the difference. That’s why, when Sony hired the team of Casé Fala and AFAR Ventures, of which I am a partner, to design this strategy, it was a differential for the message to reach those who matter most in an authentic way.
I don’t want to give too much spoiler, but the role of Brazil in the film caught my attention. As was to be expected (for those who study the history of slavery), the relationship between Benin-Portugal and Brazil was intense and cruel. But, I didn’t expect to see so many dialogues in Portuguese. The other is the fact that palm oil appears in the narrative, something that for Bahians, in particular, is very common in cooking and in everyday life. It is he, the palm tree, once again, that in the film’s narrative can save Africans, as well as the vibranium of Wakanda, the fictional African nation of black panther.
Finally, it should be noted that Viola’s provocation echoed a lot in the Copacabana Palace Theater room. According to her, it is up to us to make the film a success to show the world how far the power of black narrative goes. So, let’s answer the call of the Queen Woman (watching the movie, it’s evident that the name makes a lot of sense) and fill theaters all over Brazil.