HAJI MOHAMED DAWJEE: 'King Richard': Queen-maker of Venus and Serena Williams
Will Smith’s long-awaited latest film, King Richard: Venus, Serena and a Plan for Greatness, releases on 19 November.
It seems as though I have sprouted a million more grey hairs in the anticipation of this film. But my anticipation came with a lot of anxiety. You see, to me, there is nothing more nerve-wracking than that thought of a biographical film with zero involvement of the family – the main characters so to speak, especially in the case of two of the greatest athletes of all time.
It just didn’t sit right in my heart – the thought that this film about the aspirations of a father who delivered to the world two queens would have nothing to do with the telling of this story. You can imagine my relief when I found out that both sisters played the role of executive producer. Somehow, it lends the film more legitimacy - the deserving stamp of approval.
Naturally, I hounded, searched, and followed every step of this production. If there was an official tweet, trailer, Instagram post, or behind the scenes TikTok to be seen, I was there. Eyes peeled and pasted harder than a watched ball that is tossed in the air before a perfect serve.
After a long while of snippets here and there, the official trailer was released. If you have not yet seen it, watch it. In fact, I will make it easy for you and stick it right here.
If there is any lion in your heart, you will watch it over and over again, and if there is any passion left in your soul you will cry. More than once. I did. Not because I am a super-fan; not because the course of these women’s lives changed my own life and continues to push and inspire me daily. But because it is a story that will move you to the very edge of the human spirit and the human right; and drag you in from that edge to the centre of the heart of a being. To the heart of just… being. Being great. Being challenged. Being strong and bold and ultimately beautiful.
King Richard tells the story of Richard Williams. A man armed with a vision and a typed-out handwritten 78-page plan. A playbook so to speak that is lined with sentence after sentence of determination, strategy, and the forward-thinking vision of a history yet to be written. I can't find this 78-page plan anywhere. I have searched and searched. There is nothing I want to read more. As an aside, my only hope is to go through each archive of interviews collected over the years, each quote and compile them neatly into what may be a vaguely close version of what those 78 pages entail.
The father of two ambitious, talented, and keenly intuitive young women takes it upon himself to shape and walk a path unchartered while facing insurmountable odds and prevailing through the expectations set before them. And so, two legends are manifested from a dream awake.
Smith’s wife Jada is the host of her own talk show called Red Table Talk, where she often invites guests, including her daughter Willow and son Jaden, to discuss family values, to be open about so-called “dirty laundry”, and to have several other candid conversations. I am not a fan. I don’t like the Iyanla Vanzant inspirational speaker version of Jada and prefer to remember her warmly as the feisty, beautiful (still beautiful) and powerful actress of Set it Off fame. But this week, her husband Will, who plays Richard Williams, staged a Red Table takeover with the Williams sisters and I could not resist.
The sisters approached hand in hand as expected. Always each other’s biggest fans. Venus dressed in a smile, red crop top and skirt and Serena, fierce and fabulous with a smile to match her sister’s. The topic of discussion? The film. And it was not until this moment that I was privy to the opinions and comments from the record-breaking athletes.
I sat on the edge of my seat, at a not-so red table, drooling for a taste of their thoughts. The first thing they said is that they would not sign off on the movie until it was done. Serena, in her factual, fearful, and no-nonsense way infers that Hollywood has a tendency to mess things up and that this was a complicated story to tell. But in the end, they both feel proud and overwhelmed.
If you don’t watch the film, take away only this, which sums up the man in one sentence: "The most dangerous creature on this whole earth is a woman who can think. There's nothing she can't do."
This lesson, this advice, is the truth that turned the minds of two women, like many others, who would face adversity, and still do in many ways, and equip them with the power and dignity to not only win, but to get through each step of their lives with poise and pride. In the words of Serena: "Winning wasn’t even on my mind. It was just a matter of getting on the court, and getting it through it with dignity."
Smith said he made the movie with only one thing in mind: that he would do it in a way that would resonate in the hearts of the William's sisters forever. And so it will. Not just for the crown-wearing black queens of a historically white sport. But for every single woman, girl, and child of the world’s population majority who fights every day to be great. Because we know we can.
"Venus and Serena gonna shake up this world", said Richard. And so, they did.