UK Release Date: June 13th, 2014
Running Time: 104 mins.
Director: Amma Asante
Writer: Misan Sagay (Screenplay),
Starring: Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Tom Wilkinson, Sam Reid, Sarah Gadon, Emily Watson, Matthew Goode, Tom Felton, James Norton, Miranda Richardson,
Amma Asante’s Belle has the hallmarks of a costume drama thanks to the setting of Georgian England and its focus on relationships but due to the titular character it is different from other films of the genre. The inspiration for the film comes from a beautiful and lively painting (attributed to Johann Zoffany) of a mixed-race girl and a white girl, both recently revealed to be half-cousins, both given flattering portrait treatment and both depicted as equals. What makes it strange is that this was painted at a time when Britain was a colonial empire and a centre of the slave trade and both people have equal prominence. The mixed-race girl in the picture is Belle. At a time when the voice of slavers was a loud one in the British Empire because the country derived a massive amount of income from the slave trade, Belle lived the life of an aristocrat and would find herself connected to a court case which would decide the fate of the British slave trade. Assante takes this as a starting point to craft a costume drama with a civil-rights edge that tackles race and gender.