At the September 9 premiere of Queen at the Toronto International Film Festival, “We Love You, Viola!” and “Thank you, Viola” can be heard over and over in Roy Thomson Hall.
“I want to do for young black girls what Miss [Cecily] Tyson made it for me when I was 7 years old,” Davis said after the screening. “She was the embodiment of the dream, and she came to me through a broken television set in a dilapidated apartment in Central Falls, Rhode Island. What she gave me is something that cannot be quantified in words.”
Sony’s film, which hits theaters September 16, follows Agojie, an all-female army in the Kingdom of Dahomey in West Africa in the 18th and 19th centuries. The group’s General Nanisca (Davis) must train a generation of warriors. new troops to fight the invading enemy.
The audience erupted in applause the first time Davis appeared on screen, and that applause continued after intense scenes in the action-heavy film, with viewers cheering Davis and co-stars Lashana Lynch , Sheila Atim, and Soo Mbedu as they swing their machetes and throw spears.
Davis’ appreciation also came from onstage with star John Boyega talking about receiving the first email about Queen, said, “It’s like a call to action.” He added: “I didn’t realize the face of my profession. I don’t understand acting and don’t love it as much as I used to. ”
Lynch thanked director Gina Prince-Bythewood, saying, “I want to thank you for meeting me and seeing different parts of me that many filmmakers haven’t seen. It doesn’t happen often.”
Produced by Davis Queen with Julius Tennon through their JuVee production banner, alongside Cathy Schulman and Maria Bello. She has long called the film “magnum opus”.
“I feel like all my life I have allowed myself to be defined by a culture. I have allowed myself to be defined by the naysayers,” Davis said, addressing the audience before the screening. “A lot of times you allow others to define you and at 56, I realized that I could define myself.”
Following the announcement, the audience erupted in more applause, and someone near the back of the theater shouted another “I love you, Viola!” The Oscar winner responded, “I love you too.”