The Woman King (2022) | Transcript

The story of the Agojie, the all-female unit of warriors who protected the African Kingdom of Dahomey in the 1800s with skills and a fierceness unlike anything the world has ever seen, and General Nanisca as she trains the next generation of recruits and readies them for battle against an enemy determined to destroy their way of life.
The Woman King 2022

The Woman King is the remarkable story of the Agojie, the all-female unit of warriors who protected the African Kingdom of Dahomey in the 1800s with skills and a fierceness unlike anything the world has ever seen. Inspired by true events, The Woman King follows the emotionally epic journey of General Nanisca (Oscar®-winner Viola Davis) as she trains the next generation of recruits and readies them for battle against an enemy determined to destroy their way of life. Some things are worth fighting for.

* * *

♪ ♪

(insects trilling)

(Amenza speaking)

(chatter in local language)

(speaks local language)

(chatter stops)

(fire crackling)

(birds screeching)


(chatter resumes)

(bird calling)

(chatter stops)

♪ ♪

(speaks Fongbe)

(undulating cry)

(all shouting)

(grunting and groaning)

Agojie! Agoj…

(squishing thud)


SOLDIER: Agojie!

(grunting and groaning)


(grunting and groaning continue)

(soldier screams)

(soldier groans)


(grunting and groaning continue)

(panting gruffly)

Where are the prisoners?

Where are our people?

We are farmers. We took no one!



(trembling breaths)


(birds calling)

You will be home soon.


That can only mean Oyo soldiers.

(horseshoe clangs)

(sobbing quietly)

Who is she?


My mother.

We will take you back to your village.

Perhaps your father…

They sold him.

And my brothers.

They sold them all.

(sobbing continues)

♪ ♪


The prisoners are ready to march.

Bring me stronger warriors.

(birds chirping)

(livestock bleating)

♪ ♪

(lively chatter)

Thank you.

It doesn’t matt… Nawi!


Tell your mother to see me for the dress.

What dress?

(scoffs) Your wedding dress.

I will make you beautiful.

Tell her.

They have made you another match?

I don’t know what she’s talking about.

(horn blowing)

They are coming.

(excited chatter)

Let’s go.

(undulating cries)


(excited chatter continues)

MAN: Come here!

MAN 2: Daughter! Come!

WOMAN: My daughter!

MAN 3: My sister!

WOMAN 2: My sister!

BOY: Mother!

MAN 3: I’m so happy to see you.

(bells clanking)

(chatter quiets)

♪ ♪

But I want to see.


The king does not allow us to look upon the Agojie.

♪ ♪



It is a victory.

They are here for you.

They do not know an evil is coming.

They know you will protect them.

I wish to speak to the king.

He’s only seeing wives today.

Tell him. I will wait.

NAWI: The Agojie drink from the skulls of the men they have killed.


NAWI: They cut off their heads and melt off their skin in boiling hot cauldrons.

Sister! Sister!



We have a visitor.

It’s a rich man from Cana.


(chuckles) Come.

Maybe he is handsome.

I own three fields of palm trees.

You will work.

You do not talk to your husband?

In my house, you will learn to obey.


MORU: Nawi!

Forgive my daughter.

The whispers were right.

This… girl is worthless.

Master Abade.


I wish to give my daughter to the king.

No husband will have her.

I will not marry an old man who beats me.

MORU: Go to war, then.

You will understand what pain is.


In the palace, you do not have to look away.

(blades clanking)


(warriors grunting)

(grunting continues)

IZOGIE: Close your mouth.

You look like a fish.

(liquid bubbling)

What’s in there?

Indigo dye.


What did you think it was?




Those are the heads.

Some of the men who raided our village.

The rest will be sold in Ouidah.

No men but the eunuchs are allowed in the palace after dark.

Beyond this wall, this is a palace of women.

(laughter and indistinct chatter)


♪ ♪

(quiet chatter, laughter)


Go and bathe yourselves.

♪ ♪

(horse neighing)

♪ ♪

Oyo, can you see this?

Your comrades murdered… by women.


(horse snorting)

The Dahomey grow too bold under their new king.

GHEZO: My loves.

My loves.

My love.

My love.

Nanisca, come with me.

(grunts softly)

Why does he always favor her?

She comes here filthy, shows no respect.

She fought for him during the coup.

Put him on the throne.

What did you do?

Locked yourself in a cupboard.

The Oyo have entered our land.

They have broken the peace.

When they come for the tribute, we will not pay it.

But that would mean war.

Migan, we have been under the foot of the Oyo since my father’s time.

Are you not tired? Eh?

Oh, because we… we fear their might.

Because of fear.

My king, they are a nation twice our size, with horses and more muskets.

We need time to plan and prepare our armies.

The Agojie are ready.

How many did you lose in this last battle against the lowly Mahi?

My king, I hear whispers of a new general.

This last attack was sword rattling.

Nothing more.

I agree.

Dahomey has prospered in the peace.

And the Oyo, too.

The slave trade is the reason we prosper.

But at what price?

It is a poison slowly killing us, and the Europeans know this.

They come to our land for their human cargo.

They’ve come to trade.

We sell them what they want.

But why do we sell our captives?

For weapons?

To capture more people to sell for more weapons?

It is a dark circle with no end.

This is not the way.

The spirits have spoken.

Ifá seeks light.

So, what do you suggest, Nanisca?

We have other things to sell.

Gold. Palm oil.

We can double our harvest.

She wants to make us a nation of peasants.

I want Dahomey to survive.

The gods have brought us a new king.

A king to be feared.

No one fears a farmer.

We have already started to gather the tribute.

Perhaps we pay, to buy us time.

I promise… this will be our last.

As for the palm oil, Nanisca, show me.

Show me how much you can produce, and we will see.

You speak in secret to the king.

You seek to cut me out.

If the king respects me, it is because I have earned it.


I am Amenza.

You come to the palace of Ghezo, the ninth monarch of the Dahomey people, descendants of the leopard Agasu, beloved of the twin gods, Mawu and her brother Lisa.

You are called to join the King’s Guard.

We fight… or we die.

We fight for Dahomey, for our sisters, for our great king.

You will be revered.

You will be paid for your work.

Your opinions will be heard.

No tribe or kingdom in all of Africa shares this privilege.

For this honor, we live out our lives in these palace walls.

We take no husband.

We will bear no children.

Mahi women, no harm will come to you for the sins of your men.

I offer you and our people a choice.

Any woman who does not wish to stay…

…may leave.


♪ ♪

(indistinct chatter)

AMENZA: I can’t continue with this one.

You’re talking vodun. You don’t want to listen.

No, you want to laugh.

Do not touch another warrior’s weapon.

Mm. Especially that one.

It is cursed.

Esi couldn’t hit an elephant in a stampede.

Turn your back and see how true my aim is.

Ah, me?


(both laughing)

Spent all my liberties walking the river till I found the perfect whetstone.

Shaped smooth by the waterfall.

Sharpens to a thorn.

Pop out their eyeballs, fight is over.

(Izogie chuckles)

They are also useful in keeping the trainees in line.

Why have you not bathed?

You are going to bring the buzzards.

I let the others go before me.


(clicks tongue) The first rule of training: always obey Izogie.

I am Izogie.

(water splashes)

I’m sorry.

You may stay.

You are one of the captives we freed?

No. My father brought me.

As a gift to the king.

Is your father rich?

He must be.

Otherwise, he would have sold you to a rich husband.

He tried.

I do not want a husband.

I want to be a soldier.

An Agojie.

How old are you?

I have 19 years.

You look like a child.

I work hard.

Harder than anyone.

Many obstinate daughters are dumped at the palace.

They usually fail.

All our lives, they… they tell us stories about the Agojie.

That you have magic.

You look like a regular old woman to me.

Fighting is not magic.

It is skill.

We will see if you have any.

I am not a soldier.

Then why did you stay?

I have nowhere else to go.

You are Mahi.

Why did you stay?

Here, I will be the hunter, not prey.

♪ ♪

Today, you are receiving your first weapon.

♪ ♪

Not good.

Ah, good.


A rope is not a weapon.

You wish for a different weapon?

Stand up.

Go. Attack the soldier. Take his head.

I apologize.

Do not apologize. Do it.


(light laughter)

I’d work on that rope.

Hey. Tsetse.

Who’s Tsetse?

You, little fly.

Buzzing around full speed.

But you don’t know where you are going.

We need smart warriors.

The dumb ones die quickly.

I’m not dumb.

Then show me.

You have to train different.

The drills are a game.

It is play, like when you were a child.

I was not allowed to play.

I was made to work.

Such a sad tale.

You don’t know anything.


You know, when I had 14 years, my mother put a sign out to sell my virginity.

The first man came, and I cried for my mother, but she didn’t come.

The second man came and complained of my tears, so she beat me.

The third man came, and I burned him with an ember.

(scoffs) Your family was cruel, as was my mother.

It is enough to make you cry.

But it is better to laugh. Yes?

You have a new family now.

IZOGIE: Trainees, we will prepare you for the final test.

You will perform your battle skills before the king.

♪ ♪

(voiceover) Those who pass the test will become Agojie.

And those who fail will leave the palace, never to return.

(heavy, pained breathing)

Hey, look at you. The Oyo will catch you, hang you by your feet and cut your throat.

Use your feet and walk!

♪ ♪

(Nawi groans softly)


(trainees exclaim)


Get up. You are just waiting to die.


Are we training to cook?

You are cutting a body, not a yam.

Swing with purpose.

MAN: Ready. Fire!

(grunting and groaning)

IZOGIE: Good, Ode.

TRAINEE: Get out!

Nawi, you move like a sloth.

(trainees shouting encouragement)

(cheering, clapping)

TRAINEE: That’s right.

WARRIOR (chanting): Dahomey!

(warriors chanting in Fongbe)

AGOJIE (chanting): Izogie!

(warriors chanting in Fongbe)

(chant intensifies, increasing in tempo)



(chanting): Agojie!

(chanting in Fongbe)

(fasttempo chant continues)

(chant fades)

NAWI: Fumbe.

Show me how to tie the rope.

(laughs) Never.

It is the only thing I can do better than you.

(scoffs) Ode, this one.


But did you see Izogie?


With the dagger here.

She’s standing there, not moving, not in pain.


(chuckles) I love it.

I’m going to be like her.

Yes, my friend.

As strong as her.


You try to stab me, I’ll stab you back.



IZOGIE: Backswing.

(explosive pop)

(quiet laughter)


Which of you designed this trick?


Then you will all be punished.

I did it.

We all did it.


It was me.

I apologize.

Once again.

Go back to the barracks.

How do you make this explosion?

You do not need guns to use gunpowder.

We just need a spark.

You like the guns?

Do you enjoy practicing with the men in the infantry?

I see you flirting.

This is not allowed?

You know it is not.

Why not?

The men who are soldiers have wives and children, but the Agojie cannot.

How is that fair?

Were you this arrogant with your family?

No wonder they gave you away.

It is you who is arrogant.

I am a general.

I have earned it.

You have earned nothing.

I should put you out.


I have watched soldiers die because they did not have discipline.

Their easy life did not prepare them for this life here as an Agojie.

I did not have an easy life.

(crying) I did not have an easy life.


II want to be here with the others.

I want to fight for my king.


Your tears mean nothing.

To be a warrior, you must kill your tears.






You are a Mahi prisoner.

That is all you will ever be.

What did you say?

She killed our people.

You killed mine.

Me, I also came here a captive.

Do you think yourself better than me?

No, Ajahi.

If you make it through the final test, you are one of us.

No matter where you come from.

Hmm. (sniffs)

Hey, Tsetse.

Eat up.

Nanisca favors the strong.

What is the first rule of training?


Always obey Izogie.

Come with me.

(insects trilling)


What is it?

The only thing the white men bring worth having.

They call it whiskey.


There. We finally found a way to quiet Tse.

You know your tongue will get you kicked back to your village.

Why do you challenge the miganon?

NAWI: If I’m quiet, she won’t see me.

(scoffs) Do you think she has time to think about you?

(scoffs) She is thinking about the world.

You know she may one day be the kpojito.

The woman king?


But we have not had one in so many years.

His brother did not honor it, but King Ghezo believes in tradition.

In the twin gods, Mawu and Lisa.

Woman and man.


Ghezo will name a woman king.

For the gods and the people.

But is that what the miganon wants?

I cannot say.

But in the palace, she is a legend.

Captured as a young soldier.

Given up for dead.

But she returned, with the Oyo bastards’ kofes hanging by her belt.


(grunts, gasping)

(breathing heavily)

NANISCA: You know I hate that drink.

The king drinks anything I give him.

The king is young.

He brings that silly wife to the council.

(chuckles) Shante.

Ah, she is ambitious, hmm?

(Nanisca scoffs)

(Amenza takes deep breath)

(Nanisca grunts)

Tell me the dream, Nani.

(Nanisca clicks tongue, groans)

It dispels its magic if you say the words.

I am in the jungle.

AMENZA: Mmhmm.

Something is out there, in the darkness.

A beast.


(Nanisca sighs)

I can smell its sweat, its fear.

What does the beast look like?

I don’t know.

That is when I wake.

The dream is a warning, no?

We must ask Legba.

Oh, no. Not the nuts.

(scoffs) Do not call them nuts.

(Nanisca chuckling)

They are sacred.

You have enemies gathering.

You must do better than that.

I see fire.

Something or someone from your past.

(sighs) This is nonsense.

And your medicine, too.

I am not even tired.

Go to the altar.

Leave gifts for the dead.

Do it.

If you do not respect Ifá, respect your own dream.

(insects trilling)

(wood stick clacking)

(grunting nearby)

♪ ♪

(grunting continues)


♪ ♪

(guns fire)

(drums playing rhythmically)

(warriors singing in Fongbe)

(singing continues)

(horses neighing)

(singing stops)

♪ ♪

♪ ♪

I am General Oba Ade.

(woman grunting)

(ropes creaking)

(Oyo soldier laughing)

…the esteemed regard of the king of Oyo.

Gifts for the Oyo Kingdom, as is tradition.


This is less than ever before.

Did you think we would not see?

Did you think we would not see your hand in the raid of our village?

To make up for your shortcomings, I will accept an addition to the tribute.

40 Agojie.

(shocked murmuring)

Not too old.

And if I refuse?

Then you may no longer use the port in Ouidah for your trade.

The port belongs to Dahomey.

We have taken control.

It belongs to us now.

I’m so surprised you brought your horses here to plateau.

If they are bitten by the flies, they may get the sleeping sickness.

Sometimes a mouse can take down an elephant.

Do you threaten the Oyo, usurper?

You will respect the king.

GHEZO: Mmmmmmmmmm. Migan.

This new general seeks to bait us.

We won’t jump at his foolishness.

Let us talk.

20 Agojie of our choosing.

We will march them to Ouidah and surrender them.

And the port remains open for our trade.

I will leave Boma to enjoy the feast that you have prepared.

In Ouidah, I will be waiting.


(horse whinnies)

(quiet chatter)

♪ ♪

♪ ♪

(heavy, shuddering breaths)


What happened?

Your nuts were finally right.

(indistinct chattering)

♪ ♪

(speaking Portuguese)

(Santo speaking Portuguese)

(lively chatter)

(horses neighing)

(goats bleating)

(man grunts)

(man coughing)

(coughing continues)

♪ ♪

WOMAN: Agojie.

WOMAN 2: Agojie’s here.

MAN: Hey, a deal’s a deal!

♪ ♪

(both speaking Portuguese)

♪ ♪

We bring tribute from King Ghezo.

Dahomey has no soldiers man enough.

They have to use their women.

It is against the gods.

My men will find plenty of use for them.

You’re mistaken.

These soldiers are not your tribute.

This is your tribute.

Let it be known to all

The great and mighty King Ghezo fears no one.

(shouts in Fongbe)

(undulating cries)



(Agojie laughing)

(Oyo soldiers shouting)


(both yelling, grunting)


OYO SOLDIER: LiLift the gate!

(Oyo soldiers shouting)

(yelling and grunting continue)

(yelling, grunting)

(gate creaking)

(yelling and grunting continue)


(shouting continues)


♪ ♪


OBA: Go! Go!

♪ ♪


(Nawi gasping)

(gun blasting)

(gunfire continues)


(gunfire continues)

(bullets splashing)


Push off.

♪ ♪

(relieved laughter)

Why did you not follow the plan?

You were to go to the boats.

The soldiers were coming.

If I did not come back as I did…

So you are the hero?

You can act on your own, ignoring orders?

You would not have escaped.


It is you who faced capture by disobeying my orders.

We are Agojie.

We do not act alone.

We move together with one purpose.

Alone, you are weak.

Alone, you are killed or worse.

Now you have seen the barracoons.

A captured Agojie is a slave.

Used by men.

Left to rot.

It is better to die.

Cut your own throat.

I will never question you in front of the others, but it is you who did not follow the plan.

I only ever had one plan, Amenza.

To take his head.

Nanisca, I…

(indistinct chatter, laughter)


Come in.

I hear you have had a victory.

(chuckles softly)

Nanisca, I think we have started on a wrong foot.

I wish to be your friend.

I can help you. I have the king’s ear.

We should work together to serve our king.

To ensure he grows only more powerful.

It is you who wants to be powerful.

To stay safe and rich in your fine palace.

Too much change can be dangerous.

I have said this much to my husband.

Then we will soon understand who truly has his ear.

♪ ♪

NANISCA: This field alone produces thousands of barrels of palm oil.

If we harvest many fields each year, we will have a continuous supply to trade.


I never saw a path before, Nanisca.

But look at this.

Now I do.

NANISCA: Vision is seeing what others do not.

But now we have declared war.

We will conquer the Oyo, and we will expand our land.

Nanisca, we will be the greatest empire in Africa.

Yes, my king, but let us not be an empire who sells its people.

Let us be an empire who loves its people.

My brother sold our own.

I will never do that.

Even if they are not Dahomey, they are still our people.

The white man has brought immorality here.

They will not stop until the whole of Africa is theirs to enslave.


(indistinct chatter)

The English navy now patrols the waters, attacks and removes our cargo.

Your tribal warfare is none of my concern.

And yours with Dahomey is none of ours.

It will be over soon enough.

The Mahi, the Igbo, they are with us.

By the full moon, we will march on their city, and we will take it.

Ouidah is open for business.

You will have your cargo.

(speaking Portuguese)

(elephant trumpeting)

(guttural grunting)

♪ ♪

(birds chirping)

♪ ♪

♪ ♪


(speaking Portuguese)

Go back to Ouidah, slaver.

Naked like the people you sell.

I am not a slaver.

You understand me?

My mother was Dahomey.

You do not look like Dahomey.

My father is white.

So you are Dahomey but not.

And white…

(chuckles) but not.

You think I could have my pants now?

I saw you in Ouidah.

Why are you here in the jungle?

I am going to Dahomey.

The place my mother told me so much about.

Perhaps I will see you there, too.

If you are allowed into the palace.

I am Malik.

SANTO: Malik!

(Santo speaks Portuguese)

(speaks Portuguese)

(indistinct chatter, laughter)

I do not like this young captain.

Puffed up like a banty rooster.

Finally, we agree.

(speaking Portuguese)

(speaking Portuguese)

GHEZO: So you are now a captain, eh?


Very good.

(speaking Portuguese)

GHEZO: Well done.

You have my thanks.

My mother was also taken.

Sold by my brother.

I have many men in your country searching for her, and they will bring her back.

It is a must. (chuckles)

And, uh, if they find your mother, they will bring her back, too.

I have just buried her.

It was her dying wish that I come to her home.

The only place she was ever free.

This is your home.

It is yours, eh?

And you came on the right day.

Our magnificent Agojie,

they are doing their final test.

So please sit, eh?

Go. Go on, sit. Go.

Prepare the seats for them.

Very good.

Let us begin.

(rhythmic drumming)

(faint singing)


(drumming stops)

(clears throat)

Fear not.

Face it headon.

Relentlessly, we will fight.


(drumming resumes)

(pained groaning)

(whimpering, panting)



(grunts, yells)

No, no, no, no, no, no.

Come! (grunts)

Come. Come. Come.

(groaning, whimpering)


Come. Come.


(groaning and whimpering continue)




(gasping, grunting)

(yelps, grunts)

(gasping, oohing)


(pained grunt)





(man groans)



(fierce grunting)




(laughs, whoops)

(undulating cries)

GHEZO: Come. Come, come, come, come, come.

Come, my dear. Come, come, come.

(Nawi grunting, panting)

What is your name?

I am Nawi, my king.


You are beautiful as you are fierce.


If she was not so skilled, I would have made her a wife, now.


To the victor!


♪ ♪

The gods will bless you. The gods will keep you safe.

Well done to all of you.

You are the strongest warriors in Africa.

Welcome to the King’s Guard.

(cheering, undulating cries)

♪ ♪

IZOGIE: Agojie!



Wu Suu!


Wu Suu!

(undulating cries)


Hey, be still.

Thank you.

(Izogie groans)

Why did you return to help Fumbe?

You could have lost.

Fumbe is my friend.

I want her to stay.

To stay, she must pass the test.

To be useful, she must stand on her own.

You would not help your friend, Miganon?


I would step on her head to win a footrace.

Ah, your first scars.

The mark of a warrior.

You see?


You will have many more.



Make sure… all the thorns come out.

Here, here.



IZOGIE: Mmhmm.


What is this?

Uh, my father used to call it the devil’s mark.

It was there when he chose me from the orphanage.

You are an orphan?

But your father…

He took me in.

I guess I didn’t turn out to be the daughter he wanted.


(Nawi chuckles)



What did you do with it?

With what?

You told me never to tell you.

I’m asking.

You said you would ask, and you made me swear.


I am not your servant, Nanisca.

I gave her to the missionaries.

What missionaries?

The ones we passed on the road when we were marching.

Where did they take her?

I have no way to know that.

What direction did they go?

I followed your order to free you of the burden and I chose to give her away.

And that is all you know?


I do not lie to you.

Why do you ask these questions after all this time?

Because Nawi is an orphan?

You couldn’t possibly think that shshe…

Of course not.


The gods are not that cruel.

(Santo speaking Portuguese)

Speak my language when you are in my palace.

Your wife Shante, she said you seek an end to the trade.

She does not speak for me.

And she will be punished for thinking she does.

She says this is your general’s wish and perhaps not yours.

My generals obey my wishes.

So you wish to sell… palm oil.

I wish for my people to prosper, as those of your land do.

Ghezo, the people in my lands prosper because of the slave trade.

And this very same trade has made you rich.

As rich as the king of England.

You stop the trade, you will be nothing.

King, maybe, but… king of mud.

All of these captains will take their business elsewhere.

The business of selling Africans?

You will be unprotected.


(scoffs softly)


You know, I am under no illusion that you see us as anything but a commodity.

But I am a king.

With or without your respect.

And if you are no longer a necessity to me, you, too, are unprotected.

(whooping, laughing)



(drumming and chanting continue in distance)



May I come in?


No man may cross the palm line.

In Brazil, foreign men may look on the king’s women?

In Brazil, women cover their bodies with long sleeves, long skirts.

Then how do they run?


Yes? Make sure that…

We make camp outside the walls tonight.

Come to see me.

Tonight, we take our blood oath.


If you wish for a girl to come to your tent, there are girls you can pay in the market.

No, no, II just want to talk to you.

SANTO: Malik! (shouts in Portuguese)

Will you come to see me?

♪ ♪

(Agojie humming a tune)

(humming continues)

AMENZA: Agojie!

(Amenza speaks Fongbe)

Blood of our sisters.

(singing in Fongbe)

♪ Make us invincible ♪

(singing in Fongbe)

♪ You live for me ♪

(singing in Fongbe)

♪ And I for you ♪

(singing in Fongbe)

♪ Blood of our sisters ♪

(singing in Fongbe)

♪ Make us invincible ♪

(singing in Fongbe)

♪ You live for me and I for you ♪

(singing in Fongbe)

♪ You live for me and I for you ♪

(singing in Fongbe)

♪ Agojie ♪

(singing in Fongbe)

You are now my sister.

I will be proud to fight with you.

I want you to teach me.

Like the miganon teaches you.


I also want to be great.

To be great, you must focus.

There can be no distractions.

I will.

At the test, I saw the man from Brazil wave to you.

You know this man?

I… I came across him in the jungle.

(mocking) “In the jungle.”


So, what, you have feelings for him?

I have no way to know how I feel about him.

You want me to teach you.

You are powerful.

More than you even know.

Do not give your power away.


You mean to love?

Love makes you weak.

You really believe that?

(clicks tongue, stammers)

You have never loved?

I will be miganon one day.

You cannot have both.

Will that be enough?

This is the life we have chosen.

We each survive in our own way.

You will find yours.

(quiet chatter)

(insects trilling)

MALIK: My mother was a slave.

That is all I ever knew of African people.

I never dreamed that we were…

…kings and warriors.

But now… I see the majesty. I see the beauty.

NAWI: I think you are a good man.

You must not ally yourself with slavers.

We grew up together.

But does he see our beauty as you do?

(clicks tongue)

(Nawi sighs)

Nawi, the Oyo are coming.

We are ready.

No, not just the Oyo.

Other tribes, too.

I heard the general plotting.

We must tell the miganon.

I must get back.

Nawi, wait.

Tomorrow, we are going to leave.

This is Ogou.

He is courage and strength.

Perhaps he will bring you back to us.

I have nothing to give to you.

♪ ♪

I will take you back.

(footsteps approaching)


I have heard something.

One of the men that came to the palace, Malik, he says the Oyo general is growing his army with other tribes.

They will march on Dahomey.

The Oyo have given them courage.

Where were you speaking with this man, Malik?

He spoke to me through the palm line.

On the night you swear loyalty to your sisters, you speak in secret with a slaver?

He’s not a slaver.

His mother was Dahomey.

You defend him?

Is that knife a gift?

Where have you been?

I have been nowhere.

Come here.


You are an Agojie.

You cannot be with a man.

Do you think you are so special that I will not put you out?

Because I will.

I do not think I am special.

Do not bow your head.

Do not.

I know your arrogance.

You continue to do as you please.

You disregard the rules.

What do you want from me?

I proved myself today.

I am the best.

It is not enough to be the best.

Your arrogance and your stupidity will get you caught.

I am not you.

Izogie told me that you were captured.

That will never be me!

I was raped many times each night.

When they would come, I wished only to die.

They took it all away.

Everything I knew.

And when I finally escaped, I was with child.

A child of those men.

I would have to leave my sisters forever, so I had to hide.

I bathed alone.

And my belly grew.

(birds screeching)

(pained yelling)

NANISCA (voiceover): It was a girl.

I told Amenza, “Take it away.”

But the blood, it kept coming, and Amenza ran away to find medicine, and she left me with her.

So I did something.

(baby cooing)

(trembling breaths)

(baby crying)

NANISCA (voiceover): I made a cut on the back of the left arm, and I pressed a tooth into it.

A shark’s tooth.

It isn’t me.

(whimpers softly)

♪ ♪

♪ ♪

(whimpers, gasps)

♪ ♪

(footsteps receding)

(soft, gasping breaths)

♪ ♪

(birds chirping)

NANISCA: They are a day’s journey from our plateau.

They will set up camp there.

They expect us to defend ourselves from behind our walls.

We are greatly outnumbered.

Their size makes them arrogant and slow, like their guns.

♪ ♪

But you don’t need a gun to use gunpowder.

(voiceover) You just need a spark.

Sometimes a termite can take down an elephant.

We will bring the war to them.

♪ ♪


(singing in Fongbe)

(singing continues)

(singing stops)

(undulating cries)

(singing resumes)

(shouting fiercely)

(singing continues)

(Agojie continue shouting)

NANISCA (voiceover): For 90 years,

Dahomey has lived under the thumb of the Oyo!

(all shout)

NANISCA (voiceover): When it rains, our ancestors weep for the pain we have felt in the dark hulls of ships bound for distant shores!

(singing continues)

NANISCA (voiceover): When the wind blows, our ancestors push us to march into battle against those who enslave us!

(Agojie shout)

When it thunders, our ancestors demand we rip the shackles of doubt from our minds and fight with courage!

We fight not just for today but for the future!

We are the spear of victory!

We are the blade of freedom!

We are Dahomey!


Wu Suu!


Wu Suu!


Wu Suu!


Wu Suu!


Wu Suu!

(undulating cries)

♪ ♪

(birds chirping)

(horses neighing in distance)

♪ ♪

♪ ♪

(multiple explosions)

(soldiers yelling, screaming)

(horses neighing)

(screaming continues)

We are under attack! Attack!

(explosions and screaming continue in distance)

Grab your weapons!

We are Oyo!


(soldiers yelling)

(undulating cry)

(others join in cry)

(yelling continues)

(undulating cries continue)


(grunting and groaning)

(all yelling)

(grunting and groaning continue)


(grunting and groaning continue)

(squishing thud)

(grunting and groaning continue)

(grunting and groaning continue)

(squishing thud)

(yelling, grunting)

(loud thump)

(soldier grunts)

(Agojie yelling)

(grunting and groaning continue)

(gasping, choking)


(grunting and groaning continue)


♪ ♪

(soldier yells)

(Fumbe yelping)


(yells in pain)


(soldier groans, gasps)

♪ ♪

(grunting and groaning continue)

(neck snaps)

(soldier groans)



(squishing thud)

(soldier groans)


(whimpers, groans)

(bullet clangs on blade)

(grunting and groaning continue)


Where is Oba?

Where is Oba?!



(grunting and groaning continue)

Fall back!

Fall back! Oyo, fall back!

(frantic chatter)

(grunting and groaning continue)

(soldiers yell)




♪ ♪

OYO SOLDIER: Grab the Agojie.

OBA: Oyo, move!

Oba wants the Agojie.

Move, move, move!

(soldier grunts)

(frantic chatter)

(grunting and groaning continue)

♪ ♪

They are retreating!

OBA: Move, move, move!

(migan yells)

(others yelling)

♪ ♪

You fought well, my young sister.

(voice shaking) Now you must rest.

(warriors chanting) Ghezo! Wu Suu!

She is not here.

No one has seen her.


(trembling breaths)


I failed.


You stayed alive.

You are not tied to anyone.


Go over.


Do you want to live?


(keys jingling)

(indistinct chatter)

We need to buy passage.

We are not going home?

We have lost.

At home, we are dead men.

Put this one on display.

The bids will be higher for soldiers.


I said move.

(lock clicks)

(chains jingling)

(lock clicking)

(gate creaking)

GUARD: Move back!

GUARD 2: Make space for one more.

(dog barks)

(gate creaks shut)

Izogie. (shuddering breaths)

Come. Sit.


(Izogie grunts softly)


We will need our strength to escape.

My arm is broken.

I know what I must do.

What the miganon said.

We will slit our throats.

We will not.

“Fear not.

“Face it headon.

Relentlessly, we will fight.”


You are Izogie.

You said it.

“Relentlessly, we will fight.”

Come on!

(breathing deeply)

(Izogie grunts softly)

(breathes deeply)

Push it back together.

(bone cracks)

(pained grunt)

(muffled grunt)

(Izogie breathing shakily)

You are strong for a little fly.



Now what?

(man whistling)

(cattle mooing)

(stops whistling)

(Fumbe panting)


(panting heavily)

FUMBE (voiceover): They were taking us to the barracoons.

How many others?

Uh, three, I think.


Uh… I did not see her.

Nawi said to throw myself off the wagon.


Miganon, Ajahi.

The king requests you.

I have brought you here because I have chosen kpojito.

Kpojito is beloved of the people.

She must be deserving of their admiration and their trust.

We must share the same vision for our future.

A bold future.

For that reason, I have chosen Nanisca.

She is a common soldier.

Will you sit down.

Ruined by the enemy.

Sit down and be quiet!


Kelu, Efe, go and talk to her. Go, go, go.

We will celebrate.

We will bring the city to the palace, and we will have a big feast.

Go and prepare.

INIYA: Well done.

My king, it is a great honor.

But perhaps it is too soon, when we have lost so many soldiers and the people are grieving.


No one is grieving.

We have won.

We have thrown off the yoke.

My king, I wish to seek our lost Agojie.

Some were taken captive.

They will be sold, used by the men.

Nanisca, the moment you seek is here.

The few have been sacrificed for the many.

Now we must move forward.

I can go alone. Let me try.

The Oyo…

You disobey me, Nanisca.

Are you confusing my admiration for weakness?

I am your king.

Let me tell you, you will not seek out those captives.

You must stay by my side and take the honor I bestow you.

Do not force my anger.

(seabirds crying)

(door opens)

IZOGIE (voiceover): In the morning, they will come.

Back up! Move it! Move it!

Get back! Back!

Move back!

Back! Move it!


Stay back!

(chains clanking)

(Izogie grunts quietly)


IZOGIE (voiceover): They will take the Agojie first.

(chains clanking)

On your feet.

(grunts, groans)

(guard shouts)



IZOGIE (voiceover): We must have patience.

When we are brought to the block, we will be unshackled.

We will have our legs.

We must not let them see my arm is broken.

When we are sold, that will be the moment.

You will make a distraction.

I give you 90 for this one.


Oba, you said you would be good to me here.

Mmmm. It will go to the highest bidder.

IZOGIE (voiceover): We will each disarm a guard and run.

Do not stop until you reach the water.

150 reais.

MALIK: Nawi!

(speaking Portuguese)

(Santo speaking Portuguese)




(people screaming)


(man yells, grunts)

(gun fires)




(gun fires)


(gun fires)


(Nawi grunting)


Come on. Come on. Come on.

(grunting, jagged breathing)

Get up.


(panting) Izogie, get up.

(gasping, jagged breathing)

(sobbing) No, no, no, no.

I’m sorry.


(stammering, jagged breathing)

You move like a sloth.

(whimpering) I’m sorry.

I’m sorry.

I’m sorry. Let’slet’s go.

Let’s go.


Izogie. Izogie.

You get away from her!

Get away!



♪ ♪

If you want this one, 100 reais.

(sobbing continues)


What are you doing?

Move aside.

You know what the king will do to you if you defy him.

You want to be expelled or worse?

No, no, no, no. Nanisca.

Amenza. Amenza.

I cannot stand by.

I know what it is.

In the dream.

The beast I am so frightened of.

It is me.

It is that girl who was silenced in those shackles by those men.

I’ve hidden her away.

I have denied her pain.

But I’m going to hear her now.

(sniffles) Hmm?

I have to try to save her.



(insects trilling)

♪ ♪

♪ ♪

(thunder rumbling)

♪ ♪

♪ ♪

(distant chatter)

(door opens)

It is not safe for us. I brought you clothes.

I will sneak you out at nightfall.

Do you own me now?

Of course not.

Get out!

I am trying to protect you.

By locking me in?

Do you know what they would do to you?

A white man was killed.

You have the key now.

You can choose when the lock is turned.

(water pouring)

(water splashes gently)

My mother guided me here to find myself.

And I found you.

I have booked passage on a cargo ship bound for England.

I want to keep you safe.

(sniffs sharply)

My heart has many scars.

(takes deep breath, sniffs)

♪ ♪

SHANTE: Husband, please accept my deepest apologies for questioning your will.


What do you want?

Move, my friend.

The wives are whispering.

I told Tanonu what they say, and…

Have I not told you not to discuss my business with the wives? Have I not told you?

My king, please forgive me.

Nanisca’s gone to Ouidah with the migan and a number of her soldiers.


We must postpone the feast.

No, no. Thethe people gossip.

You cannot postpone it now, not without looking weak.

(lively chatter)

(raucous laughter)

♪ ♪


(man groans)

Where are the others?

Izogie was killed, Miganon.

Nawi is gone.

♪ ♪

There will be no prisoners.

Burn their whole trade to the ground.

(keys jingling)

♪ ♪

(gun fires)

Sound the alarm!

(alarm ringing)


(fire crackling)


(alarm continues)

(grunting and groaning)


MALIK: Nawi. Nawi.

I need to come in.

We must go.

My sisters have come.

I have to help them.

Then I will help you.

No. Malik.

You must go.

MALIK: Your clothes are bloody.

You can wear these.

(gunshots continue in distance)


(Santo shouts in Portuguese)

I will take care of him.

I will be on the beach.

(Malik speaks Portuguese)

(door closes)

(Santo and Malik arguing in Portuguese)

(grunting and groaning)

(grunts fiercely)


(grunting and groaning continue)

♪ ♪

I want Oba.

(grunting fiercely)

Hurry up, this way, this way! Come on!

Move, damn it!


(shouts in Portuguese)

No! No! No!


Malik! Malik, in!

♪ ♪

(sailor speaking Portuguese)

(Santo shouting in Portuguese)

(in Portuguese): Malik, no! No! No!

MAN: Loose me! Loose me!

Não! Não! Não!

Malik! Malik, não!

(screams) Não!

(punches landing)

(Santo screaming)

♪ ♪


(horse neighing)

(horse sputtering)




(horse squeals)

(horse whinnies)

(pained grunting)




(grunting and groaning)

(Oba yells)

(Nanisca groans)

(gasping, jagged breaths)

(both straining)

(Oba taking deep, gruff breaths)


(both grunt)

(Oba gasping)

You do not remember me.

Now you will never forget.


(Oba groans)


(gasping breaths)

(gun fires)

♪ ♪

MAN: No, no, no, no!



(soldier groaning)

(soldier chokes, grunts)



♪ ♪





NANISCA: Agojie!



Wu Suu!


Wu Suu!


Wu Suu!

Come. We cannot stay here.

Get in the boat!

♪ ♪

♪ ♪


(rhythmic drumbeat playing)

Shante, well done.

You deserve it. (chuckles)

(cheering, undulating cries)

(rhythmic drumbeat continues)

(undulating cries continue)

CROWD (chanting): Nanisca! Nanisca!

Nanisca! Nanisca! Nanisca!

Nanisca! Nanisca!

Nanisca! Nanisca! Nanisca!

Nanisca! Nanisca!

Nanisca! Nanisca! Nanisca!

Nanisca! Nanisca!

(chant fading) Nanisca! Nanisca!

(drumming stops)

You disobey your king, Nanisca.

I will resign my command.

People of Dahomey… we have ended the reign of the Oyo Empire.

(cheering, undulating cries)

(rapid drumming)

(drumming stops)

Look upon the faces of the warriors.

Look at them.

Many never thought it possible.

But we believed.

That is what makes a great leader.

Seeing what others do not.

The Europeans and the Americans have seen if you want to hold a people in chains, one must first convince them that they are meant to be bound.

We joined them in becoming our own oppressor.

But no more.

No more.

We are a warrior people!

And there is power in our mind… in our unity, in our culture.

If we understand that power, we will be limitless.

My people, this is a vision I will lead.

It is a vision that is shared.

Heroes of Dahomey, behold the bravest of the brave, appointed by King Ghezo, elevated to the sacred title of kpojito, Nanisca, the woman king.

(cheering, undulating cries)

♪ ♪

♪ ♪

An offering for Izogie.

She does not want that water.

She wants this.

In my blood is the blood of a killer.

A man who gave you so much pain.

I am sorry.

You are Agojie.

I am sorry.

I left you.

I was not brave enough.

But you survived because you are meant to be here.

It is not your fault what happened to me.

You… are not the thing that hurt me.

You are Nawi.

You are my daughter.

I am sorry.

♪ ♪

(sniffles quietly)

(sobs softly)

(inhales sharply)

(shuddering exhale)

(lively, percussive music playing)

(rhythmic, enthusiastic chanting)

♪ ♪

♪ ♪

(chanting slowly fades)

♪ ♪

Mother, will you dance?

♪ ♪

♪ ♪

(chanting fades back in)

(choir vocalizing)

(man singing in native language)

(singing continues)

♪ ♪

♪ ♪

(song ends)

AMENZA: Sisters in blood.

You fall and now you rise.

Dance with us.

(Agojie singing in Fongbe)

Be with us.

You live for me… and I for you.

(Agojie continue singing in Fongbe)








(“Keep Rising (The Woman King)” by Jessy Wilson playing)

♪ Got to understand ♪

♪ What happens from here Is in our hands ♪

♪ From mighty kingdoms Of a distant land ♪

♪ Turn the world upside down Yes, we can ♪

♪ We just gotta ♪

♪ Rise up, rise up ♪

♪ Rise up, rise up ♪

♪ Rise up, rise up ♪

♪ Rise up, rise up ♪

♪ No, no, yeah ♪

♪ No ♪

♪ No, no, yeah ♪

♪ No ♪

♪ No, no, yeah ♪

♪ No ♪

♪ No, no, yeah ♪

♪ No ♪

♪ Been marching so long ♪

♪ How far is it to get To where we’re going? ♪

♪ Don’t you know Together we are strong? ♪

♪ We’re gonna fight the madness Till it’s gone ♪

♪ We just gotta ♪

♪ Rise up, rise up ♪

♪ Rise up, rise up ♪

♪ Rise up, rise up ♪

♪ Rise up, rise up ♪

♪ No, no, yeah ♪

♪ No ♪

♪ No, no, yeah ♪

♪ No ♪

♪ Oh… ♪

(woman singing in foreign language)

♪ Rise up, rise up ♪

♪ Rise up, rise up ♪

♪ Rise up, rise up ♪

♪ Rise up, rise up ♪

(woman vocalizing) ♪ No, no, yeah ♪

♪ No ♪

♪ No, no, yeah ♪

♪ No ♪

♪ No, no, yeah ♪

♪ No ♪

♪ No, no, yeah ♪

♪ No ♪

(vocalizing continues)

(woman singing in foreign language)

(song ends)

♪ ♪

♪ ♪

(music ends)


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