A portrait. That’s all it took for British producer Damian Jones to know he wanted to make the movie that turned out to be Belle. He also had the perfect person to direct – Black British director Amma Asante. But a movie about a little known Black member of the British aristocracy, with a Black female director?
Forget it, he was told. Fortunately for film fans, he didn’t.
Asante went on the direct the film, the true story of Dido Elizabeth Belle, with Gugu-Mbatha Raw in the title role and with British writer Misan Sagay, also female, as the film’s screenwriter. The movie, in limited release, has gotten rave reviews. Mbatha-Raw told the Tom Joyner Morning Show that she was proud to be a part of the project.
“It’s spreading slowly but surely and expanding and we’re really, really excited,” she said. “I don’t know exactly how many screens but we’re expanding and Memorial Day we’re going nationwide,” Raw says. “It was a wonderful experience with a female director, writer and actor and such a female-centric story as well and a great romantic story.”
Initially, the film was going to HBO, but when that fell through, the British Film Institute stepped in and helped Belle get made. For her part, Asante is proud that women make up the bulk of the significant behind the scenes players on the movie. In an interview with The Huffington Post, she talked about being proud to facilitate that happening.