Viola Davis defends her new film The Woman King after Dahomey slave trade history backlash

The Woman King breaks new ground for Hollywood, but its representation of history has come under some criticism, ITV News Correspondent Rishi Davda reports

Oscar winner Viola Davis has highlighted the years of research that went into The Woman King, as she addressed accusations the film minimises its location's role in the slave trade.

The actress pointed out that many of those criticising her latest film have not actually seen it, as she spoke to ITV News about the upcoming action epic.

Davis starred and co-produced The Woman King, which is inspired by the true story of the all-female army, the Agojie, who fought to protect the west African kingdom of Dahomey, in Benin.

Concerns have been raised that the film unjustly glamourises the Agojie army, as critics suggested it should document the kingdom's role in the slave trade.

Davis, 57, stars as general Nanisca, who trains the next generation of recruits and readies them for battle against an enemy determined to destroy their way of life.

US journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones wrote on Twitter that “it will be interesting to see how a movie that seems to glorify the all-female military unit of the Dahomey deals with the fact that this kingdom derived its wealth from capturing Africans for the trans-Atlantic slave trade”.

Davis, who gave award-winning performances in Fences and How To Get A Way With Murder, told ITV News: "I feel like a lot of the backlash is from people who have not seen the film."

She said "years and months" of research had gone into The Woman King and that filmgoers would see "a movie that literally is going to shift the narrative for people of colour".

Viola Davis addresses the backlash to The Woman King

The film, which also stars John Boyega and Lashana Lynch, was conceived seven years ago, after a trip to West Africa by producer and actor Maria Bello.

The script eventually made its way to director Gina Prince-Bythewood, who previously helmed Love and Basketball and The Old Guard.

"I didn't know about these women until this project," the filmmaker told ITV News.

"To know that there were real women out there that looked like me, that were warriors, that were doing this kind of thing... that's exciting."

Davis, whose husband is also one of The Woman King's producers, said there is power in ethnic minorities being behind the scenes.

"Sometimes you have to step up to the plate when you see deficits in the world... sometimes warriors are made," she said.