This is a post by JBFC Membership & Website Assistant Nicole Testa
It has been said that “a picture is worth a thousand words,” but in regards to the movie Belle, a picture is worth an entire film. The making of this new historical drama began in a surprising place – in an art museum. Director Amma Assante was visiting the Scone Palace in Scotland, where she spotted the eighteenth century portrait of Lady Elizabeth Murray and her cousin, Dido Elizabeth Belle. What really caught Assante’s eye, though, was the surprising dynamic between these two young girls. Lady Elizabeth was lovingly clutching the arm of her companion Dido, who was of mixed race, in a style of portraiture that was very uncommon during this period. Who was this young woman, breaking the social conventions of her time, all with a dashing smile? Assante had to know more – and thus, a movie was born.
Belle tells the story – part fact, part artistic-embellishment – of the ending of slavery in Britain, through the life of the real historic figure, Dido Elizabeth Belle. Little is known about Belle’s life. She was the illegitimate daughter of an African slave woman and British Admiral Sir John Lindsay. At a young age she was sent to live with her great-uncle, where she was raised as a free gentlewoman. Her great-uncle, though, was William Murray – Lord Chief Justice of England – who ruled in 1772 that “slavery was not supported by the law.” It is hard to deny the idea that Dido had a strong influence on her uncle’s thoughts regarding race and slavery – and this idea is at the very heart Assante’s beautiful film.
Belle opens Friday, May 9, at the Burns. Tickets are on sale now!