the woman king
The Woman King costume designer talks about the challenges of creating historical pieces, when the records were made by racist societies.

The Woman King is a story that takes place during the 1820s, when the General Nanisca, leader of the army known as the agojiefrees women from Dahomey who had been kidnapped to be sold as slaves. Such an event sparks a war with the empire Or meso the Agojie army begins to train his new generation of warriors to protect your community.

Starring Viola Davis, The Woman King is a story like few others in the cinema, in which both characters of African origin, What women, They lead the plot almost entirely. Because of this and because of the immensity of the story, the costume designer Gersha Phillips decided to join the project, accepting the challenge of portray an almost mythical societyfrom a time when photography didn’t even exist yet.

The only images we had were drawings made by Europeans for the World’s Fair, and we discovered that they were fake” commented Philips during an interview with Indiewire, highlighting the magnitude of the problem when the goal of the director Gina Prince-Bythewood was to create something authentic and true to history, so she and her team began their research.

The story changes depending on who tells it

Designer Gersha Phillips spoke about the difficulties of creating costumes for a story centered on a community that for years had been ignored by historianssince for 1800, the logs approach was in the technological advances of Europe and their influence on other continents.

Even so, both Phillips and director Prince-Bythewood decided to search for beyond the few depictions in the booksconstantly meeting with racist and stereotypical portrayals of the Agojie.

“The illustrations came from people who wanted to dehumanize these women” said the director, assuring that also the stories about the army were merely through the points of view of conquerors. “I read essays and stories of people who had visited the region, mainly English soldiers and sailors who had to go to Africa by royal mandate” Phillips added, “It was difficult to read them because almost all the descriptions were demeaning.”

For this reason, the production of The Woman King he extended his research to more recent essays, with historians and professors with more objective views, also relying on pieces rescued by museums.

“It was a work of constant complementation. When we read, some of the information came out, for example, that they used tunics made of a rigid material and that they wore pants, they talked about agriculture, society and its forms of commerce, we found a lot of information”.

Gersha Phillips

To this, Phillips added that to identify the type of textiles he studied the area: the animals around and what the ground gave through the Agriculture, wondering how the Agojie would use these elements to their advantage. The final piece came from thinking in practical terms how would the warriors modify their clothing to be useful in battle and how could they reflect that in the story of The Woman King.

“It was about portraying these warriors truthfully: they wouldn’t wear too much stuff on top of them, because then they would be easy prey. These women even put oil on their bodies, so that no one could grab them.”

Gersha Phillips

The line between documentary and historical fiction

One of the details Philips rescued from the documentation, were the shorts with which the Agojie warriors fought, unlike the records that suggested they used skirts. However, he admits that they had to make modifications for the tape, since they limited the movement of the actresses.

“We started out with long, loose shorts, but they were very restrictive. And given the complexity of the actions and stunts, we made them tighter. We were stressed at first because we wanted to be 100% faithful to the period in which the film is set. But one thing they told us is that being a story about a time, it doesn’t necessarily have to be something so documentary, but something entertaining and inspiring.”

Gersha Phillips

Finally, he spoke about the importance to the details in each of the changing rooms and how it is that small adjustments in each one of them, helped to define exactly who each warrior was.

The Woman King will soon premiere in Mexican theaters.

What do cinephiles and cinephiles think?

Source: Fueradefoco

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Peggy McColl

Mentor l NY Times Bestselling Author. Hi, I'm Peggy McColl, and I'm here to deliver a positive message to you!

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