TV Viewpoint: Warrior Women with Lupita Nyong’o and The Accident

Academy Award winning actress Lupita Nyong’o has had quite the ascension since she grasped that Best Supporting Actress Oscar in her hands in 2014. As well as further roles displaying her wide range, including creepy dramedy Us and the upcoming zombie comedy Little Monsters she has also entered the superhero movie canon as Nakia, an esteemed warrior from the fictional African country of Wakanda, tasked with protecting her king.

It turns out that the tribe of warrior women Nakia belongs to, the Dora Milaje, are closely related to, and probably inspired by a real life tribe of warrior women in the Western African country of Benin called the Agoji, who defended their country and king from invading tribes and French imperialists in the 17th and 18th centuries. In Warrior Women with Lupita Nyong’o, the actress travels to Benin to further investigate these remarkable women.

With a backdrop of billboards advertising Black Panther, Nyong’o sets off in to the unknown. She meets her translator, Martine, who takes her to visit the current king, who has few powers but is still revered among his tribe. She must be given permission by him to continue her investigation, and when she is she soldiers on, to meet the descendant of one of the members of the Agoji, hear stories and pay witness to a tribal dance invoking the spirits of those men who were enslaved by them, be and invited to meet a very secret, special person kept hidden from every day view.

Nyong’o is a spirited and engaging presenter, bridging the gap between the viewer and the subject. Hailing from Kenya on the Eastern coast of the huge continent of Africa, via Mexico and now living in America, Nyong’o is as removed from the tribe in Benin as we are, but her inquisitive personality and respect towards all she encounters, earning their trust and therefore gaining more information about the formidable women than even she had expected.

In stark contrast to The British Tribe Next Door, in which the nice-but-dim Moffat family from Gogglebox has their house from Durham literally recreated piece by piece in Otjeme, Namibia in order to interact with a local tribe, Warrior Women with Lupita Nyong’o was informative, beautifully shot and gracious in its reverence to other cultures and their practices, both current and long gone. While I have no doubt that the Moffat family are nothing but well meaning, and there are some teaching moments in The British Family Next Door as well, there are colonial undertones and patronising elements that are somewhat uncomfortable to reconcile. While Warrior Women was a one off, the British Tribe Next Door continues this evening (Wednesday) on Channel 4.

The Accident is a new drama starring Sunday night favourite Sarah Lancashire, that started last Thursday, also on Channel 4. Far from Sunday night fare this is though; set in a town in Wales, the story begins with a dreadful accident on a construction site that claims the lives of several teenagers. It begins with the mother of the ringleader finding her in bed with a man many years older than her, and ordering him out the window before the man of the house can find and presumably kill him.

Off go the parents to a fun run in aid and celebration of a new development that’s in the works, that promises jobs and opportunities for the townsfolk of Glyngolau. The run is promptly interrupted by a huge bang which turns out to be a freak explosion on the development site. What emerges soon after is that the gang of youths is trapped inside.

A stirring drama from Jack Thorne, who is behind This is England, Skins and the upcoming His Dark Materials trilogy, The Accident evokes the terror behind an unexpected devastation. Aside from the confusion and anger surrounding the accident, and the visceral responses to it by both the parents of the teens and the developers in control of the site there are some shocking moments of domestic violence and vitriol being spat in the wrong direction. A particularly difficult and poignant scene included a deaf woman, the wife of the foreman, taking charge and attempting communication with one of the victims on her hospital bed. With echoes of Chernobyl and no doubt inspiration taken from the Grenfell tragedy, The Accident is not an easy watch, but is essential viewing for those looking for some thought-provoking, well-acted and produced drama.

  • First published in The Tuam Herald on 30 10 19.

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