It's amazing how one song can capture a culture's idealized view of women. In 1919, the great American songwriter, Irving Berlin, had been hired by Florenz Ziegfeld to write a musical number which would glorify the showgirls in the 1919 edition of the Ziegfeld Follies.
As a black woman of diverse heritage myself, which includes a grandmother who was biracial and raised in the deep south of the U.S. in the 1930s, where slavery only ended only about 60 years prior, this important film resonates with me.
Maybe, in some small way, Asante's Belle will lead men the world over to recognize that equality and justice for all of humankind is the foundation of freedom, democracy and peace. Asante's Belle reminds us that women are as free by nature as the men we give life to.
Dido Elizabeth Belle was born in 1761 and died in 1804, yet the experiences that this film projects in its illustration of the past bear shocking resemblance to the challenges that black women (and black people) face in the United States today.
Getting a screenplay from page to screen can be a long process, and this is doubly so when the subject is so different. In 2004 I conceived a Jane Austenesque, costume-drama feature ﬁlm with a black female lead that also addresses slavery. It was inspired by a painting.
Yes, yes, I know -- spidermanspidermanspidermanspiderman. I'll get to it. But my favorite movies of the week, as usual, are the small ones. Let's start with Amma Asante's Belle, a Jane Austen-ish film based on a true story.