Take an old form and make it new — it's one of the more obvious ways to bring something fresh to the cinematic table, but it's hard to do well. Especially if it's a period piece, where sumptuous fabrics and scenic vistas punctuated by longing sighs and wistful glances tend to take top priority. But then Amma Asante made Belle and now everything that is old feels new and relevant again.
Dido Elizabeth Belle Lindsay is a real person: the illegitimate daughter of a well-to-do, 18th century British Naval officer and an African slave. Clearly, the whole thing caused quite a kerfuffle and a few awkward silences at the dinner table. Yet against all odds and conventions at the time, Dido was raised as a noblewoman, and therein lies the hook: this based on a true story tale feels rife with discussion on not only race, but gender and class structures, something that is all-together never seen in the oft-whitewashed (because, well, times were tough for anyone that wasn't a rich white man. Isn't that crazy to imagine in 2013, a time so far removed from this? ...oh wait) genre of love won and lost. Period pieces be gettin' hip to contemporary conversations, y'all!
Starring Gugu Mbatha-Raw in the title role of Belle/Dido, as well as Tom Wilkinson, Emily Watson, Sara Gadon, Penelope Wilton, Miranda Richardson, Tom Felton, Sam Reid, and Matthew Goode, the film looks positively promising (and pretty exciting) for anyone who's feeling Hollywood's current stance on dissecting tricky topics with a bigger societal message that can (and hopefully will) resonate with today's modern audience. I mean, really though, it's about time there were more period pieces about the struggles of people who had it way, way harder than the majority of their white counterparts who spent the far too much of their time fainting on chaise lounges over the conditions of existence.
Belle opens in Spring 2014.