(U.K.) A Fox Searchlight Pictures (in U.S./U.K.) release and presentation, with Isle of Man Film, Pinewood Pictures and BFI, in association with Head Gear Films and Metrol Technology, of a DJ Films production. Produced by Damian Jones. Executive producers, Steve Christian, Julie Goldstein, Ivan Dunleavy, Steve Norris, Phil Hunt, Compton Ross, Christopher Collins. Co-producers, Jane Robertson, Robert Norris.
Directed by Amma Asante. Screenplay, Misan Sagay. Camera (color, Arri widescreen), Ben Smithard; editors, Pia Di Ciaula, Victoria Boydell; music, Rachel Portman; music supervisor, Maggie Rodford; production designer, Simon Bowles; supervising art director, Ben Smith; art director, Claudio Campana; set decorator, Tina Jones; costume designer, Anushia Nieradzik; sound (Dolby Digital), Alistair Crocker; supervising sound editor, Lee Herrick; sound designer, Robert Ireland; re-recording mixers, Brendan Nicholson, Andrew Caller; special effects supervisor, Chris Reynolds; visual effects supervisor, Henry Badgett; visual effects, BlueBolt; assistant director, Martin Curry; casting, Toby Whale.
Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Tom Wilkinson, Sam Reid, Sarah Gadon, Miranda Richardson, Penelope Wilton, Tom Felton, James Norton, Matthew Goode, Emily Watson, Lauren Julien-Box.
I have always loved period pieces and been waiting all my Life for this one. Finally a period piece with a leading Black character not set on a plantation. Finally, a film with a Black female lead that does not involve her being tortured, objectified, marginalized, or caricatured. Belle is smart, engaging and elegant, and the first time that a lead character of color has ever been featured in a period piece with out the setting being a plantation.
Directed by Amma Assante ( ) from a script by Misan Sagay (Their Eyes Were Watching God), the film tells the incredible true story of Dido Elizabeth Belle, an aristocratic mixed race girl, who is brought to live with her uncle and his family by her father, when her mother passes away. We watch as the girl becomes a woman of great wisdom and grace, both despite and because of, the racism around her.
Elegant forces of Hollywood nature, Sagay and Assante are my new favorite writer and director respectively! They managed to bring all of the important issues of race, gender and class to the screen with a delicacy that has never been seen before. I cannot think of another film, that has broached these subjects properly. Though set in the 18th century, the film speaks to many of the things woman of color still deal with today, especially those of us that are of a higher class. I found one scene where Belle’s loving Caucasian cousin, who is raised with her as a sister, becomes jealous of her and lashes out, so true to life. What woman of color has not faced racism when jealousy comes into play. It’s the natural place people go.
As Belle, Gugu-Mbatha Raw is a refreshing revelation. In fact, the whole cast – Miranda Richardson, Emily Watson, Sarah Gadon, and Sam Reid, as Belle’s hunky future hubby – is pitch perfect. I have always been a big Tom Wilkinson fan and love him here as the spiritually conflicted uncle, who raises Belle. Again, there is so much Truth here that has never been seen on screen before. While he is not a racist, he IS a racist. He loves Belle, but still can’t allow her to dine at his dinner table! He loves Belle, but can’t easily see all Black people as equals. The last character that was so accurately portrayed as a great person, who is flawed because of their racism, was in the 19 film “Gentlemen’s Agreement”!
While the story takes loads of liberties with the real history, it peaks viewers interest and makes you want to check out the real story. It also made me want to see what other great people of color lived in those days. There are literally hundreds so let’s hope that Belle will be the beginning of a Black period film trend.