Art, History, Race, Romance, Politics: BELLE

Sunday, May 11, 2014

I'm sure there are people born and raised in Nebraska who are Francophiles, Gingers who love the sun and Dutch who wear Kimonos and collect things from the Ming Dynasty and on and on, you never know why people have an affinity to, or identify with, things that don't seem to fit who they are or should be.

I've always been drawn to the British Aristocracy and fancy the idea of living in a sprawling country estate. I began reading historical Harlequin Romance novels about the age of 11 or 12 and absolutely loved all the etiquette, intrigue, wealth, entertaining and most importantly, no one worked. They had inheritances, dowries, investments, but few lowered themselves to have actual professions and never if you were a Lady. All of this appealed to me, but of course as an African American, I didn't see myself reflected in any of this, at least not in any lofty position. This is why the movie Belle by writer/director Amma Asante (who adapted a screenplay by Misan Sagay) is so exciting to me!


Belle is about a woman of mixed race being raised by her great Aunt and Uncle, Lady Mansfield (Emily Watson) and William Murray, 1st Earl of Mansfield, Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales (Tom Wilkinson). The movie is a work of fiction, although it is based very much in historical facts. Amma was drawn to the project through the painting of the real-life Dido Elizabeth Belle (Lindsay) who is depicted as an equal to her cousin Elizabeth Murray, a painting that hung in the family estate, Kenwood House, from 1779 -1922 and is still owned by the present Earl of Mansfield.

In the movie, after the death of her mother, a slave, Dido Belle (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) is taken by her father Captain Sir John Lindsay (Matthew Goode) and brought to his Uncle, Lord Mansfield for protection, as he must return to the sea. At the estate already is another little girl, Elizabeth (Sarah Gadon) who's father, Captain Lindsay's cousin, had also been dropped off to be raised under the guardianship of Lord Mansfield. The two girls become like sisters and Dido for all intents and purposes is raised as an equal and a Lady in the household. But when it comes time for the two girls to marry, Dido's racial heritage becomes an obstacle, as society will not accept her having a "coming out". Ironically, Dido does not need to marry for financial security as her father has left her quite wealthy and free; there's a wonderful line in the movie where Dido speaks of the blessing of being free twice over, as a woman and as someone who would have been a slave. However, in this time period, and particularly a woman of gentility, still needed to marry for social standing.

More than this, the plot centers around a case that Lord Mansfield as Chief Justice must make a ruling upon - the case involves the drowning of slaves while en-route from Africa to Great Britain. The Captain and owner of the ship in question, the Zong, claimed they had to throw the slaves overboard to preserve enough water for the crew; but it's in question as to whether the slaves were thrown overboard due to sickness. Any slaves that dies during the voyage, particularly when jam packed into small quarters is just a loss to the ship/slave owner; however, if the cargo (slaves) are lost or must be sacrificed during the voyage, the owner can make a claim to their insurance company and be reimbursed. This was a true case in history and the whole thing called into question how people can be considered cargo in the first place, which became instrumental in the abolishment of slavery in England.

#Belle is a beautifully shot film (on the Isle of Mann), the writing gives us many poignant thoughts and thought provoking dialogue. The romantic chemistry between Dido Belle and Mr. Davinier (Sam Reid) is what all us hopeless romantics look for in a movie. And Gugu Mbatha-Raw acts with such expression in her eyes, she's simply lovely (despite her unappealing name). I adore this movie! I also got such a delight every time someone referred to Dido as Miss Lindsay, as that's my last name, of course it makes me wonder, could I be a long, long lost relation?

Amma Asante and Le Anne Lindsay

Best of all, Amma Asante was in attendance at the Philadelphia preview screening of Belle for a post Q&A.

My question to Amma was: Right now black females seem to be trending with the popularity of Kerry Washington in "Scandal" and Lupita Nyong'o gracing the cover of People Magazine's Most Beautiful issue; but when you started down this journey with "Belle", none of this was happening, so what made you feel the film was going to be accepted by audiences and green-lit by the powers that be? 

To hear her answer, listen to the below video/audio from the Belle Movie Q&A which took place at Ritz 5 theater on Thursday, May 8, 2014

(T&T RSS Feed readers please visit Tinsel & Tine or our Youtube page to see video):

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Comments are now being directed to Tinsel & Tine's facebook post on the movie!

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About This Blog

is about discovering what I find pleasing in screening & eating - in case you missed it, the name is a play on Tinseltown using the Tines of a Fork.

Feel free to send me info on a film or new restaurant you'd like me to highlight.

Will there ever be a cap on movie prices?

Will we one day pay $20 a pop?

Why don't we pay on a scale?

A crap movie like everything Adam Sandler has ever done should cost about $4.50.
Big action movies like"Lord of the Rings", "Iron Man," "Transformers" are worth $10.
Woody Allen movie or something like "Silver Linings Playbook" $6-$7.
A chick flick or light comedy $5.75 and most Indie Films $5.25.

You could even do it by seasons - all summer block busters from May to August - $10
Sept - November 15th $3.50 - $4
Back to $10 for Thanksgiving and Christmas etc...

Or you can do it by A Actors ($9 - $10), B Actors ($6 - $7) TV actors on the big screen ($3.50 - $4)

Surely I'm not the first person to realize this makes sense. Has it been voted on in the Motion Picture Industry and then vetoed? If so, why?

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