Clyde News

The Inspiration for “Belle”

Three months ago I wandered into a stately home called Kenwood House in London’s Hampstead Heath. I was struck by the liveliness of an unusual 1779 portrait of two young women.Dressed in silks and pearls, they are clearly friends and equals, yet one is blonde and one is black. Then it occurred to me—this must have been the home of Dido Belle, subject of a movie I’d been trying to book.

Belle writer/director Amma Asante was given a print of that same portrait several years ago, and had her own questions. Who were the white girl posing demurely in the foreground and the impish black girl streaking by behind her? How did such an unconventional relationship form at a time when England was the center of the slave trade? How did they fit into that rigid society? What became of them?

Dido Belle Lindsay was the mixed-race daughter of an officer in the British Navy and an African slave. After her mother’s death her father brought her to the home of his uncle, William Murray, Lord Mansfield, to be raised. The Mansfields were already raising another niece, Lady Elizabeth Murray, and the two girls were brought up almost as equals.

I say almost, because there were cultural attitudes that even people as eminent in society as Lord and Lady Mansfield could not overcome. Dido was a young woman of property, but black. Elizabeth had no dowry. Both seemed equally doomed to a life without marriage and the respect and security that came with it.

Intrigued? Catch Belle at The Clyde Tuesday, Wednesday & Thursday July 8-10 to find out more.


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5 responses to “The Inspiration for “Belle””

  1. janezz says:

    Thanks for bringing a provocative and interesting film to us. I hope lots of people besides me will show up.

  2. Allie Fee says:

    Unable to make the showings of Belle – will it return?

    • Lynn says:

      I think we will try to bring BELLE back in August. In the future, if you use the Contact Us button on this website to ask whether a film is upcoming, I’ll answer, and then save your email request so I can notify you when that film has been actually booked. I can’t do that so easily from this part of the website.

  3. Christine says:

    Will The Lunchbox come back? I heard it was great and I missed it. How about a food movie marathon like in the dead of winter:
    Babette’s Feast
    The Big Night

    • Lynn says:

      We don’t plan to bring back The Lunchbox, but we are bringing back Chef July 26-28. And watch for another food movie The Hundred Foot Journey in early September.

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