By Manal Mahamat
Belle is a wonderfully written piece of work that plays on the heartstrings of the viewer as it eloquently combines personal experiences with rich, deep rooted, controversial historical events. Amma Asante’s acting is powerfully moving as she portrays the life of the late Dido Elizabeth Belle (1761-1804). Belle takes place in the 18th century, where a young, illegitimate, mixed race daughter of the Royal Navy captain, Sir John Lindsay (Mathew Goode), is left behind to be taken care of by his relatives. Dido primarily gets raised by Lady Mansfield (Emily Watson) and Lord Chief Justice Mansfield, along with their daughter Elizabeth (Sarah Godon). Sarah is always treated as outsider because her mother was African. She is always left behind on important matters, such as when she was told not to come to dinner because important guests were coming over. John is a man who not only arouses her desires but also opens her eyes to the world around her.
The production of Belle was inspired by the by the 1779 painting of the real Dido and her cousin Elizabeth. This masterful film unfurls as a decadent brew of heart wrenching romance and enriching history. It examines the legal and economic realities of the slave trade in England as well. The flawless cast and richly-colorful costumes by Anushia Nieradzik help bring the movie to life, making the emotional and political aspect a docile pill to swallow.