One of the highlight films of this year is The Woman King, co-produced by and starring Viola Davis. A critical and commercial success, it tells the story of the all-female army of the kingdom of Dahomey, in present-day Republic of Benin. The soldiers were reputed for their tactics and fearsome disposition, and at one point numbered up to 4,000 elite corps.
The legendary women are also now the subject of Agoodjie, a newly ordered 8-part epic drama series by the French production and distribution company Studiocanal and its international arm Canal+ International.
Agoodjie is created by Didier Lacoste and Joy Fleury. The screenplay is by the Nigerian writers Ukamaka Olisakwe, Adachioma Ezeano, and Jude Idada. Our understanding is that its development precedes the release of The Woman King.
“Agoodjie looks at the four-year war between Dahomey and France, a conflict that began shortly after the Berlin Conference and the violent scramble for Africa, with the French laying claim on the kingdom,” said Olisakwe, who joined the project in 2020 as the lead screenwriter. The series explores “how this impacted lives and the Kingdom’s long rivalry with its neighbors.”
The first Franco-Dahomean War took place between 21 February 1890 and 4 October 1890. The second war followed from 4 July 1892 to 15 January 1894. Opening in 1889, the narrative finds a girl, Tiwa, resident in Yorubaland, and faced with several challenges which change her worldview. Upon initiation into the Agoodjie, her special talents pave her way. The story will also engage the politics of feuding royal families and the warriors’ personal lives and motivations. It will be shot in South Africa, Nigeria, and Benin.
“This project has been a magical journey,” said Ezeano, who was asked to join the team after Joy Fleury read her work. “This is a story that moves beyond the continent. I was awed by that, the possibilities.”
There has been no further information on its release date, but there’s no doubt the production will be stellar, especially considering the writers. Olisakwe was profiled by us for her novels centering women and for her magazine Isele. And Ezeano won an O. Henry Prize last year.
We’ll be sharing more information as the production goes forward.