by Kyna Morgan
In one of my favorite cities, Toronto, for the international film festival this week, I was fortunate enough to procure a ticket for Amma Asante's latest film, Belle, a biopic period drama focusing on the life of Dido Elizabeth Belle Lindsay (written by Misan Sagay). Dido was the biracial daughter of Admiral Sir John Lindsay and a Black slave named Belle. While not much is known of her life, what little is known was included in the film. Having last brought a film to Toronto about seven years ago, Asante found it difficult, along with her producer, Damian Jones, to find enough funding for the film, but both were tenacious! (She told the crowd that Belle had less than a fifth of the budget of her previous film, A Way of Life (2004).) In fact, when cast member Emily Watson described the early stages of her attachment to the film, she said it wasn't clear at the time whether the film would actually be made. Every cast member present during the Q&A sang the praises of Asante. She clearly had an inspiring vision for the direction of this film, and Gugu Mbatha-Raw, who portrayed Dido, spent the past seven years preparing for the role in various ways, even visiting Dido's home, Kenwood Estate on Hampstead Heath in England. Mbatha-Raw fearlessly leads this star-studded cast with a fiercely inspired and beautifully tempered portrayal of Dido.
Jacqueline Lee Katz