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Belle: A Thoroughly Satisfying Film for Both the Heart and Mind



The trailer for Belle was true to the tone of the actual film. People that enjoyed the trailer will most likely enjoy the film as the pacing of the film is like the pacing of the trailer. There are genuinely funny moments as well as genuinely touching moments. Films have to walk a fine line when going for touching moments. When films cross that fine lines, moments meant to be touching become saccharine and induce eye rolling in the audience. In all honesty, this writer knows very little about the historic Dido Elizabeth Belle. This film is effective because the character of Belle is so compelling people will want to learn more about the actual Belle. When she has her victorious moments, the audience wants to cheer and cry tears of joy.
There have been a number of blogs over the past few years calling for greater diversity in cinema and television. In order to satisfy those bloggers, many studios have put token characters who are not white men in films without making them fleshed out characters. They are trying to *sell* stories rather than *tell* them. It is the opinion of this writer that the most organic level of diversity people desire to see in cinema will be achieved when there are more women and minorities behind the camera (telling the story) as well as in front of it. Writer Misan Sagay and director Amma Asante do a beautiful job crafting Dido (Belle) into a completely fleshed out character (they both clearly had the goal of telling an important story rather than selling one). Gugu Mbatha-Raw gives a performance that proves filmmakers do not need to choose between talent and physical beauty when making casting decisions. She had distinctive relationships with the members of her family and the people she became acquainted with throughout the film. The love story was as good as any Jane Austen book (it has certainly drawn plenty of comparisons). She is a good feminist role model in that she refuses to settle for anything less than respect. Even in the 21st century a lot of women settle for men who don’t respect them out of fear of being alone.
There is intelligent social commentary in the film beyond the fact that Dido was a biracial child born out of wedlock in the 18th century. There was economic commentary as well. Societies throughout history have allowed atrocities to take place because they were convinced it was in the interest of the economic security of their nation (Dido’s uncle, William Murray, made a historic ruling on the Zong Massacre. Whatever he felt about the morality of the situation, his ruling had to be based on the law as it existed at the time). Today there are countries where human trafficking and child brides are a way of life (in the United States fracking and coal mining pollutes drinking water), just as the slave trade was a way of life in the 18th century. Too many economic eggs have always been put into too few baskets creating a culture of dependency on certain industries, while allowing certain groups of people to be marginalized.
This writer feels that Belle is an important film for people to see and plans to buy the DVD when it comes out. It is as beautifully shot, beautifully told film.