Enfilade

In Theaters This Spring: Belle

Posted in films by Editor on January 13, 2014

 

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Belle is inspired by the true story of Dido Elizabeth Belle (Gugu Mbatha-Raw), the illegitimate mixed race daughter of a Royal Navy Admiral. Raised by her aristocratic great-uncle Lord Mansfield (Tom Wilkinson) and his wife (Emily Watson), Belle’s lineage affords her certain privileges, yet the color of her skin prevents her from fully participating in the traditions of her social standing. Left to wonder if she will ever find love, Belle falls for an idealistic young vicar’s son bent on change who, with her help, shapes Lord Mansfield’s role as Lord Chief Justice to end slavery in England.

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From Jamie Doward’s article for The Observer (12 January 2014) . . .

Directed by Amma Asante, who . . . was born in Britain but lives in the Netherlands, the film tells the story of Dido Elizabeth Belle, the daughter of an enslaved mother in the Caribbean, who went on to live at Kenwood House in north London under the protection of Lord Mansfield, the lord chief justice. While she was living there, in 1772, Mansfield ruled that a master could not carry a slave out of Britain by force, a judgment seen as a crucial step towards the abolition of slavery.

Misan Sagay, who wrote the screenplay, has said that understanding Belle is crucial to understanding Mansfield’s motivation. “The abolition story is often told without a black person being there,” she said recently. “But Belle, living with such a power whose judgments affected slavery, must have had some impact.”

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