Friday, June 27, 2014

"Belle" follows on other films on the history of slave trade like "Amazing Grace" and "Amistad"

Belle”, directed by Amma Asante, tells a story related to the eventual ending of the slave trade in England, and fits in to the television specials and documentaries about the US Civil Rights movement fifty years later.   It also could be compared to “Amazing Grace” (2006). 

The film is said to be inspired by a painting of Dido Elizabeth Blle (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) with her white cousin Lady Elizabeth (Sarah Gadon) at Kenwood House.  Belle is the illegitimate mixed-daughter of a British Navy officer who is brought to Kenwood to be protected by the Earl of Mansfield (Tom Wilkinson), a high placed judge who will have to decide a case where an insurance company challenges a claim where slaves were jettisoned (again, this recalls the 1997 film “Amistad”).  An idealistic young lawyer John Davinier (Sam Reid), while first rejected by the Earl in his legal career, stirs up Belle’s interest in justice.  Her social and legal position in the estate is inconsistent and makes no sense to her, or to John.  Soon Belle discovers evidence in documents that the slave ship had killed the slaves because they became ill after they had been packed too closely together (conditions shown in “Amistad”, but not in this film).
All of this sets up an eventual change of heart for the Earl, who at one point is challenged by Lady Murray (Penelope Wilton) that he “doesn’t see people as people”.  My father once said that to me, during the dark days of the end of 1961. 

I saw the film at the AMC Shirlington in Arlington, before a small audience, but the film has been around for several weeks.

The official site is here from Fox Searchlight. 

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