Stars discuss racism in modern society at London premiere of 'Belle'. Helen Long reports.
Gugu Mbatha-Raw was the belle of the ball at the red carpet premiere of slavery period drama, 'Belle' on June 5th at the BFI in London. The rising English star plays Dido Elizabeth Belle. Set in 18th century England, the film is based on the true story of a young woman born to an African slave and a Royal Navy Admiral. Brought to England by her father and raised by her aristocratic great-uncle, Lord Mansfield, played by Tom Wilkinson, the adoption scandalises polite society, exposing the deep prejudices of the age. SOUNDBITE: Actress Gugu Mbatha-Raw, saying (English): "I think in this story you sort of talk about the themes of learning to be comfortable in your own skin and not caring what people label you as or how society puts expectations on you so I think that's the important thing, if you know who you are then it doesn't really matter, you know, what people endow you with or names that they call you, labels that they put on you. I think it's about being true to yourself." Belle is British Ghanaian director Amma Asante's first major feature film and it explores the questions of race, class, gender and identity. SOUNDBITE, Director Amma Asante, saying (English): "The film deals with very very surface issues of racism but also very nuanced, very, it deals with racism as a subtext as well and I think possibly in many ways everyday racism today is very much more like the subtext kind of racism that we deal with in the film, and I think those issues are still relevant today but so are the issues of gender, so are many of the political issues, you know I think there's a lot of contemporary resonance in this film." Caught between two worlds, Belle struggles to find her own identity and acceptance in a society, that's grown rich off the back of the transatlantic slave trade. She falls in love with John Davinier, played by Sam Reid, an abolitionist vicar, who, with her help, shapes her great-uncle's role as Lord Chief Justice to end slavery in England. 'Belle' has been making waves in the United States since its release across the pond earlier this year, winning two prestigious film awards. The movie is tipped for success on this side of the Atlantic when it's released in the UK on June 13.