The movie Belle is based on the true story of Dido Elizabeth Belle, the daughter of an African slave woman and English Aristocrat who grew up as a free young woman and heiress in her uncle’s London home in the 18th century. She also influenced her uncle, in his capacity as Lord Chief Justice, on cases affecting the legitimacy of the slave trade.
If that isn’t enough of a remarkable reason to the see the movie, it’s also a love story, in writer Misan Sagay‘s capable hands.
“I wanted Belle to have a love storyΓÇª the real Belle married quite late,” Misan shared with us at the NYC red carpet premiere screening of the film earlier this week. “I wanted her to be young, and for us have a rip-roaring bodice romance.”
And that’s just the case for stars Gugu Mbatha-Raw and Sam Reid, who play Belle and her love-of-a-lifetime John Davinier. In true chick flick fashion, Belle and John instantly dislike each other when they first meet in a very unladylike way (according to Belle) at her family estate ΓÇô which means they are meant to be head-over-heels in love.
There’s lot of bodice heaving and long glances as Belle helps John, the son of baker who challenges ranks of class by having aspirations to be gasp, a lawyer!, fight for the rights of all humans.
This is indeed a story about class and finances as Belle’s biraciality doesn’t necessarily stop the advances of white suitors who need a couple extra zeros in their bank accounts. But for Misan, this is the undeniable right to tell one of the million stories of Africans who were silenced by slavery.
“What was taken from us in the slave era wasn’t just our bodies or our spirits, it was our voices and the ability to tell our own stories and define ourselves,” Misan declared. “We didn’t have that until quite recently, and we’re now telling stories that we want to tell. This is an amazing and fantastic moment for us, and this is why I’m here.”
Belle opens in select theaters in NY and Los Angeles today.
photo credit: Fox Searchlight