About the Production
Raised as an aristocratic lady, Dido Elizabeth Belle (Gugu Mbatha-Raw), the illegitimate
mixed -- race daughter of an 18th
Century Royal Navy Admiral, leads an unusual life, unknown to
others like her. She is at once a spirited young woman caught up in the marriage games and status-
seeking of the era as well as an outsider whose identity forbids her from being treated as an equal in
society. But when she falls for the fiery young legal apprentice, John Davinier (Sam Reid), in the
midst of the landmark Zong ship trial -- which rivets the world's attention to slavery's inhumanity --
Dido faces choices unlike any woman of her time. As she weighs the desires of her heart against
social rank, and society's prejudices against her own self-worth, she inspires those around her to
imagine a freer world to come.
Director Amma Asante adored the idea of bringing a revealing new twist to the sense and
sensibilities of a romantic period film -- adding to the mix of attraction, marital maneuvering, class,
and gender a series of still provocative questions about race, bias and justice.
"I've never seen a film about the Jane Austen elements we know so well -- the marriage
market, the lives of girls growing up into society ladies, the romantic longing -- combined with a story
about the end of slavery," says Asante.
The love story in BELLE brings two people together against all odds and changes Dido
Belle's whole outlook on the world. "Dido transforms from a girl who says, 'As you wish, sir,' to a
woman who says, 'As I wish -- this is what I need, this is what is important to me,'" says Asante.
"She does so not because she is a privileged young woman who wants more, but because she is a
woman saying, 'I want equality in my household and in the world.'"
BELLE has attracted a spectacular ensemble cast including the introduction of Gugu Mbatha-
Raw as Dido Elizabeth Belle, Oscar nominee Tom Wilkinson as Lord Mansfield, Sam Reid as love
interest John Davinier, Sarah Gadon as her cousin and companion Lady Elizabeth Murray, Miranda
Richardson as Lady Ashford, Penelope Wilton as Lady Mary Murray, Tom Felton as James Ashford,
James Norton as Oliver Ashford, Matthew Goode as Dido's father Sir John Linsday and Oscar
nominee Emily Watson as Lady Mansfield.
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