By Gina Cherelus
TORONTO, Sept 9 (Reuters) - "Widows" is billed as a heist movie, but its showcase of female strength and initiative seems to speak directly to the reinvigorated movement for female empowerment.
The film, set in Chicago and starring Oscar winner Viola Davis, follows four women left in debt by their criminal husbands who decide to turn to robbery to get back on their feet.
It chronicles their journey from wives who were primarily supported by their husbands but who overcome the trauma from past abuse and neglect to develop creative ways to survive.
"It wasn't any gimmickry heist movie. It was women empowering themselves in their lives and confronting each other and having to work together," Davis said at the Toronto Film Festival where "Widows" had its world premiere this weekend.
"What better metaphor is there for women today?" she added.
The women are also played by Michelle Rodriguez, Cynthia Erivo and Elizabeth Debicki in a multi-ethnic cast directed by Briton Steve McQueen, whose powerful historical race drama "12 Years a Slave" won best picture at the 2014 Oscars.
"It's a film about women, about women learning who they are and becoming independent. It's about empowerment, it's a film about corruption and racism and violence, and it's a heist film," Debicki said.
McQueen said he was inspired to make the film after watching the 1980's British television series of the same name when he was a teenager. The movie's arrival at a time when women are demanding more representation and respect in Hollywood and beyond is mere coincidence, he said.
"It just sort of spoke to me as a 13-year-old black boy in London," McQueen said. There were "these four women who were being sort of judged in the way that they can achieve, and judged by their appearance rather than their character."
"Widows," which also stars Liam Neeson, Colin Farrell, Daniel Kaluuya and Robert Duvall, won strong reviews and is already creating Oscar buzz as Hollywood's long awards season gets under way.
"The men are fighting for scraps. The women are fighting for their souls," said Farrell, who plays the deeply flawed and conflicted politician Tom Mulligan.
"Widows" will be released in North American movie theaters on Nov. 16. (Reporting by Gina Cherelus; Editing by Jill Serjeant and Andrea Ricci)
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