Via Blouin Artinfo
The second feature to be written and directed by the British filmmaker Amma Asante, “Belle” will tell the story of a mixed-race woman raised as an aristocrat in 18th-century England. Dido Elizabeth Belle (1761-1804) was the illegitimate daughter of Admiral Sir John Lindsay of the British navy and an enslaved woman, herself known as Belle.
The movie is partially inspired by the above painting (artist unknown), in which Dido, wearing a turban, stands to the right of her orphaned cousin, Lady Elizabeth Murray. Both girls were raised by Lindsay’s cousin William Murray, the Earl of Mansfield, and his wife Elizabeth at Kenwood House in Hampstead, near London. It is likely that Dido was adopted as a companion for Elizabeth. She lived at Kenwood for about 30 years.
Asante has cast Gugu Mbatha Raw as Dido in “Belle,” which starts shooting at Pinewood Studios on September 24.
I have seen this painting on numerous occasions but always thought it was just a painting of a well dressed house slave posing with her wealthy mistress . I hadn’t realised that Dido Elizabeth Belle was a blood relative (cousin) and had been brought up an aristocrat . But the painting for some reason still screams house slave posing with her mistress.
I seriously doubt that Dido and her cousin were seen or treated as equals so her being brought up as an aristocrat might be a slight exaggeration.
Anyway I look forward to watching this film when it is released. They will probably release it during ‘Black History Month’ in October 2013.
I am also happy to read that Gugu Mbatha Raw has been cast to play Dido and not Thandie Newton the actress they always seem to call when the role demands a woman of colour.