Amma Asante

Amma Asante Shows that Period Films Can (and Should) Center Black People

A United Kingom

Actress Thandie Newton argues that “historical dramas ‘limit UK Black actors’.” Churning out endless projects about the royal family and the so-called “good old days” isn’t doing Black actors any favors. …”Historical/period drama” is one of the worst genres for inclusion of Black characters, with a whopping 80% of such films having no named roles for Black actors whatsoever. …Period dramas and Black stories aren’t mutually exclusive, as Amma Asante shows us in ‘Belle’ and her latest film, ‘A United Kingdom.’

Colorism and Interracial Relationships in Film: ‘Belle,’ ‘The Wedding,’ & More

Belle

The colorism Dido experiences is seen throughout different Western societies that had Black African enslavement as part of its world. Many stories of colorism also exist in American history and folklore and we see how it impacts romantic relationships and in American film and TV.

The Female Gaze: Dido and Noni, Two of a Kind

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Directors Amma Asante and Gina Prince-Bythewood illustrate that when a story is told through the eyes of the second sex, themes, such as romance, self-worth, and identity are fully fleshed out. By examining an 18th century British aristocrat and a 21st century pop superstar, it proves that in the span of three centuries, women still face adversity in establishing a firm identity, apart from the façade, amongst the white noise of societal expectations.

‘Ackee & Saltfish’: There Are Other Narratives to Explore

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We need new filmmakers like Cecile Emeke to break new ground with digital media. Smash the stranglehold of white filmmakers being the only ones telling Black stories that often dredge up old stereotypes and tired narratives. We need the specificity of Emeke’s vision. And dammit, I need more Rachel and Olivia in my life.

Captain Uhura Snub: The Politics of Ava DuVernay’s Oscar

Not pictured: Steve McQueen and Kathryn Bigelow

It is appropriate, when celebrating the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr., to recall Dr. King’s words to Nichelle Nichols, as she considered quitting ‘Star Trek’ in frustration at the limitations of her role: “You can’t leave!… For the first time on television, we are being seen as we should be seen every day. As intelligent, quality, beautiful people … who can go into space.” Dr. King’s words show that he clearly understood the value of a token image, as a symbol, a precedent and a possibility model for future progress.

The Gaze of Objectification: Race, Gender, and Privilege in ‘Belle’

Movie poster for Belle

What does it mean in a young woman’s life to be constantly stared at and treated as “the Other”? ‘Belle,’ directed by Amma Asante and written by Misan Sagay, has a lush, gorgeous look from the costumes to the landscape, and throughout this new film we, too, are invited to “look,” and to understand that “the dominant white male gaze” is related to power in 18th-century England. An actual 1779 portrait currently hanging in Scone Palace, Scotland, credited to artist Johann Zoffany, is at the heart of the complex ‘Belle,’ as is the issue of race.

‘Belle’: A Costume Drama Like and Unlike the Others

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People of color are often omitted from historical dramas (except to play slaves or servants), with the rationale that it’s not “realistic” to have them in the cast. We can see through this excuse in historical dramas in which casting people of color would match the story being told, but white people still have the biggest roles in–and sometimes even make up the entire cast of–the film, as in the recently released ‘Noah.’ Historical “realism” is not always what we think it is: literature and visual art through the ages confirm that people of color who weren’t slaves, like Alexandre Dumas the author of ‘The Three Musketeers,’ have been in Europe for as long as people have lived there. We need to see more of their stories onscreen.