“Belle” …. a true story brought to the screen!!

~~May 27, 2014~~

Wonderful movie combining actual historical times, family relations, social and legal issues, social standing, women’s role in marriage and society.

All combined story telling of a young mulatto child brought up in the household of her well to do relatives. 


Belle is a 2013 British drama film directed by Amma Asante, written by Misan Sagay, and produced by Damian Jones. It stars Gugu Mbatha-RawTom WilkinsonMiranda RichardsonPenelope WiltonSam Reid,Matthew GoodeEmily WatsonSarah GadonTom Felton, and James Norton.

The film is inspired by the 1779 painting of Dido Elizabeth Belle beside her cousin Lady Elizabeth Murray. Commissioned by William Murray, 1st Earl of Mansfield, then Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales, the portrait of his two nieces hung in England’s Kenwood House, until 1922.

Very little is known about Dido Belle’s life in the Mansfield home. The film centers on Dido’s relationship with an aspiring young lawyer and is set at a time of legal significance as the potential ramifications of the Zong massacre become apparent. Lord Mansfield’s ruling on this infamous case, in England’s Court of King’s Bench, became an important step in bringing an end to slavery in England.

Belle poster.jpg

Theatrical release poster
Directed by Amma Asante
Produced by Damian Jones
Written by Misan Sagay
Starring Gugu Mbatha-Raw
Tom Wilkinson
Miranda Richardson
Penelope Wilton
Sam Reid
Matthew Goode
Emily Watson
Music by Rachel Portman
Cinematography Ben Smithard
Editing by Pia Di Ciaula
Victoria Boydell
Studio DJ Films
Isle of Man Film
Pinewood Pictures
Distributed by Fox Searchlight Pictures
Release dates
  • 8 September 2013 (TIFF)
  • 13 June 2014(United Kingdom)
Running time 104 minutes
Country United Kingdom
Language English


Dido Belle, the illegitimate mixed-race daughter of a Royal Navy officer, is brought to England by her father and left in the care of his uncle, Lord Mansfield, the Lord Chief Justice, at his estate of Kenwood House. Though the social mores of the time make her an outsider, Dido is raised by Mansfield as an aristocrat alongside her cousin Elizabeth.

Dido’s burgeoning relationship with a young lawyer, John Davinier, meets with the disapproval of Mansfield who considers the match beneath her.

At the same time Mansfield is deliberating on a slavery case (Gregson v. Gilbert) which will advance the cause of the abolitionists.

The new movie “Belle,” which claims, like so many such efforts, to be based on actual events, is a novel work in that it takes on a topic not regularly treated in period drama, that is, the necessarily fraught place of a free black woman in proper British society in the late 18th/early 19th centuries.

Directed by Amma Asante from a script by Misan Sagay, “Belle” tells the story of an illegitimate mulatto child, daughter of a Royal Navy man, who’s raised in affluence, lavishly educated, and rather condescendingly doted upon by the extended family her father foisted her upon.

Once the girl, named Belle by her father but called Dido by her uncle and aunts, reaches adulthood (at which point she is incarnated by the lovely and capable young actress Gugu Mbatha-Raw), her marriage prospects seem unusual. Good thing she’s got a guaranteed income, something her white not-exactly-sister Elizabeth (Sarah Gadon) does not, for reasons that a thorough reader of Jane Austen novels could probably guess at correctly.

As it happens, Dido’s uncle Lord Mansfield (Tom Wilkinson) is a judge, and in the main part of the film’s story, he’s hearing a case involving a slave ship and the question of whether human beings can be insured like cargo.

Dido hears about the case in dribs and drabs, and then in more detail from a neighbor, a passionate vicar’s son (Sam Reid) who’s under Lord Mansfield’s tutelage, at least until they have a violent disagreement on the main issue of the case.

Dido’s consciousness grows, as does her attraction to the vicar’s son.

But at the same time, Dido’s aunts, played by Emily Watson and Penelope Wilton, seek to steer Dido into an engagement with Oliver Ashford (James Norton), son of a very scheming grand dame (Miranda Richardson, of course) and younger brother to a bug-eyed bigoted quasi-rotter (Tom Felton, who seems not at all concerned by the fact that he’s lately being cast as a Draco Malfoy For All Seasons).

The movie is intelligently written and well-acted.

Director Asante herself is a woman of color her shooting style is as conventional as any veteran director you can, or can’t, name. “Belle” is of undeniable interest in some respects, its overall execution restricts it from being as engaging as it wants to be, and as wrenching as perhaps it ought.

Lady Elizabeth Murray and Dido Belle, once attributed to Zoffany


The painting, once thought to be by Zoffany and now attributed to an unknown artist, hangs at Scotland’s Scone Palace. It was one of the first portraits to portray a black subject on an equal eye-line with a white aristocrat.


The film was shot on location in the Isle of Man, Oxford and London and is the first major British motion picture to be shot on true-4K, using Sony’s F65 CineAlta digital production camera. The film was produced by DJ Films, Isle of Man Film, and Pinewood Pictures with support from the BFI.

Production designer Simon Bowles created 18th Century Bristol Docks on the Isle of Man and created Kenwood House using a number of stately homes in the London area.

Original music for the film was composed by Rachel Portman.

~~Historical references~~

The film is a work of historical fiction, inspired by a painting previously attributed to Johann Zoffany and the evidence that Dido was brought up at Kenwood.

The relative absence of known facts about Dido Elizabeth Belle gave screenwriter Misan Sagay (Their Eyes Were Watching God) considerable artistic license in framing the young woman’s story within the broader historical context of a slave-centered economy slowly entering its death throes.





~~Belle Trailer 2013 Gugu, Tom Felton, Amma Asante 2014 Movie – Official~~


Published on Oct 17, 2013

Belle Trailer 2013 – Official 2014 movie trailer – starring Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Tom Wilkinson, Emily Watson, Sarah Gadon, Penelope Wilton, Miranda Richardson, Tom Felton, Sam Reid, Matthew Goode – directed by Amma Asante.

The illegitimate, mixed-race daughter of a Captain in the Royal Navy finds her unique social standing become instrumental in the campaign to end slavery in England after meeting an idealistic young vicar’s son.

“Belle” movie hits theaters May 2, 2014.

Belle is inspired by the true story of Dido Elizebeth Belle (Gugu Mbatha-Raw), the illegitimate mixed race daughter of a Royal Navy Admiral. Raised by her aristocratic great-uncle Lord Mansfield (Tom Wilkinson) and his wife (Emily Watson), Belle’s lineage affords her certain privileges, yet the color of her skin prevents her from fully participating in the traditions of her social standing.

Left to wonder if she will ever find love, Belle falls for an idealistic young vicar’s son bent on change who, with her help, shapes Lord Mansfield’s role as Lord Chief Justice to end slavery in England. 

We ALL are ONE!!