Amma Assante is a British film director who is getting a lot of attention for her upcoming feature film “Belle.” “Belle” is a movie about a small black girl, who gets adopted into a British aristocracy during a time in which such a thing was unheard of. From what I gathered from the trailer, the movie takes the audience through the usual pitfalls that come with being a young black woman in a pre-dominantly white culture. Add in the fact that Belle is a stepchild, and wants to marry “a man with no name” in this world, and the recipe for a tearjerker is complete.
What is most intriguing about this production is the fact that a large part of its production team is comprised of minorities, who usually don’t get the chance to be heard or seen on screen. “[Belle] was penned by black British writer Misan Sagay (“Their Eyes Were Watching God”), scored by Rachel Portman (“Chocolat”), the costumes were conceived by a woman and it was edited by women,” and not to mention the fact that the lead actress in this movie is a woman of color.
I was originally going to write this post about another phenomenal creative force in the world. However, as if by fate, I happened to stumble upon Belle. What intrigued me about this story was the fact that it spoke about one of the common themes we have discussed in the class—that if more minorities had the opportunity to make films, the voice would be different. In an interview, Assante directly addressed this issue stating, “we need a variety of lenses in which to tell these stories, being in a strong position where you can make the decisions … I have a responsibility to open up those opportunities.”
This particular quote brought me back to Film Fatales when Catherine Saalfield states, “film making is the most efficient, creative and satisfying form of activism,” (Saalfield, 66). I feel as though the two quotes echo each other. Both women are owners of their art and they understand the importance of voicing a minority perspective.
In “Can ‘Belle’ End Hollywood’s Obsession with the White Savior?” the author argues that this is the first film in which a woman of color takes responsibility f or herself and saves herself, instead of waiting for a white man, in shining armor, to come and rescue him or her. In the essay, Keli Goff states, “When it comes to race-relations dramas—and slavery narratives, in particular—the white savior has become one of Hollywood’s most reliably offensive clichés,” This brings me back again to the point I made previously about minority voices making film. The perspective from which the film is made is often underrated. While on Arsenio Jessie Williams spoke out about the fact that the critically acclaimed Django was not “for [African Americans] and it was not made by [an African American.” The movie played into the “white savior” concept tha Goff speaks of in her essay. Yet, when it was marketed as though it was a groundbreaking film that showed a different side to slavery. (I will not point out the fact that the gracious white men sacrificed his precious life in order for the negro to survive in the movie).
Redding, Judith M., and Victoria A. Brownworth. “Catherine Saalfield: Art and Activism.” Film fatales: independent women directors. Seattle: Seal Press, 1997. . Print.