Viola Davis, “The Woman King”, in crucial battle for the box office

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Toronto (Canada) (AFP) – Oscar-winning actress Viola Davis said the future of big-budget black female cinema in Hollywood is at stake with the weekend premiere of the epic “The Woman King,” in which she plays an African warrior.

Speaking to AFP, Davis said Wednesday that he feels intense pressure and mixed emotions, knowing his performance in this film will be judged in a way that films with white directors and casts are not.

“First of all, the movie has to make money. And I feel conflicted about that, because we only get one or two chances,” she said.

“If it doesn’t make money, then that mostly means a black woman, a dark-skinned woman can’t top the global box office?”

“And it’s over. Period. And now, they use data for that, because ‘La Mujer Rey’ did a, b or c. And that is what generates a conflict for me.”

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“Because it’s just not true. We don’t do that with white movies. We just don’t. If one movie fails, you make another movie and you make another movie the same.”

Sony Pictures’ The Woman King, which tells the story of the warrior women of Dahomey – now Benin – in the 19th century, is in many ways a leap into the unknown for a major Hollywood studio.

With black director Gina Prince-Bythewood and a majority black and female cast, it will open in more than 3,000 theaters on a budget of about $100 million, including merchandising.

Davis, the only African-American woman to win an Oscar, an Emmy and a Tony, spent six years making this film a reality, with studios and producers reluctant to take the risk.

“Prove It”

Davis plays the veteran warrior Nanisca who trains a new generation that must defend itself against a stronger rival kingdom and European slavers.

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The all-female army of the Kingdom of Dahomey served as the inspiration for the elite female fighters in the film “Black Panther,” which grossed $1.3 billion worldwide.

Davis also urged movie-loving audiences to show that movies like “The King Woman” can be successful without being part of a superhero franchise.

“We’re all in this together, right? We know we need each other. We know we’re all committed to inclusion and diversity,” the actress said.

“So if you can spend your money to see ‘Avatar,’ if you can spend your money to see ‘Titanic,’ then you can also spend it to see ‘The Woman King,'” he added.

“Because that’s the thing. It’s not even that it’s being directed by a black woman, the cultural significance of that; it’s just that it’s a very entertaining movie.”

“And if we are indeed the same, I dare you to prove it,” Davis added.

“They won’t see us”

The film has already received positive reviews after its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival.

Variety called it a “compelling display of black power” with Davis in his “fiercest role yet”.

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But, Davis clarifies, the scenes of strong battles aroused criticism and misogyny among the black community.

“Even in the black community you have people saying, ‘Oh, these dark-skinned women, why do they have to be so masculine? Why can’t they be prettier? Why can’t it be a romantic comedy?'” he pointed.

“Well, guess what, if this movie doesn’t make any money on September 16th, and by the way I’m 150% sure it will, but if it doesn’t, then guess what: you won’t see us at all.”

“That’s the truth. I wish it were different.”