If you weren’t fortunate enough to have Amma Asante ‘s Belle reach theaters in your city, you can watch the historical-drama from the comfort of your home when it becomes available on VOD services on August 12th ( Amazon / iTunes ) and on DVD in the U.S. from August 26th.
Although the period film received no more than 525 screens at its peak, it has managed to become “a secret summer hit,” according to Vulture , and has grossed $10.6 million domestically since it May 2014 release.
“You make a movie essentially in a bubble, I think, especially when it’s your second movie,” the Ghanaian-British director told The Wrap . “So, I was certainly making this movie in a bubble, and wondering whether my concept of the world, and my concept of the world back then as well, would connect to an audience today.”
Inspired by a 1779 painting of Dido Elizabeth Belle (1761-1804) and her cousin Elizabeth Murray , Belle takes us on an extraordinary journey through the tribulations of mixed-race Dido, who was born into an aristocratic family in 18th century England.
“Initially this project had started off with my producer and the writer who’s credited on the film, with HBO in America. Then HBO dropped the project, ” said Amma, who infused the movie with a personal touch from the racism she faced while growing up in Britain.
“I put my experiences into Dido’s life. That was the easiest way of connecting the historical facts and to try and make it personal… There are many lines in it that are quotes from my father and quotes from my sister… We lived in an area where we were one of only two black families on the street. We went through that period of having feces through the letterbox (mailbox)… and graffiti on our walls. It’s resonated and not just with women, but with men as well. Not just with people of color, but with people from all backgrounds and they really are not just getting it, but really touched by it.”
Dido, the illegitimate daughter of John Lindsay (a white British Naval officer) and an African slave woman known only as Maria Belle , faced class and racial prejudices despite her social status.
She could not dine with the servants as Britain’s first black aristocrat, nor her own family when they had guests.
However, she became instrumental in the campaign to end slavery in England after developing a relationship with John Davinier , a vicar’s son who is an advocate for emancipation, and who she would eventually marry.
Starring Gugu Mbatha-Raw , Belle ‘s cast also includes Miranda Richardson, Tom Wilkinson, Sarah Gadon, Sam Claflin, Matthew Goode, Tom Felton, Sam Reid, James Norton , and Penelope Wilton .
The film was produced by DJ Films, Isle of Man Film, the British Film Institute, Head Gear Films (Funding), Metrol Technology , and Pinewood Pictures , and distributed to theaters by Fox Searchlight and to DVD by Twentieth Century Fox .
Belle is available now for pre-order on Amazon and iTunes .