The mixed-race daughter, Dido Elizabeth Belle (Gugu Mbatha-Raw), of Royal Navy Captain Sir John Lindsay (Matthew Goode) is raised by aristocratic Great-uncle Lord William Murray, 1st Earl of Mansfield (Tom Wilkinson) in eighteenth century England.
This movie was inspired by the true story of Dido Elizabeth Belle (Gugu Mbatha-Raw), the illegitimate mixed race daughter of Royal Navy Captain Sir John Lindsay (Matthew Goode). Raised by her aristocratic great-uncle Lord William Murray, 1st Earl of Mansfield (Tom Wilkinson) and his wife (Emily Watson), Belle's lineage affords her certain privileges, yet the color of her skin prevents her from fully participating in the traditions of her social standing. Left to wonder if she will ever find love, Belle falls for an idealistic young vicar's son bent on change, who, with her help, shapes Lord Mansfield's role as Lord Chief Justice to end slavery in England.Written by
Fox Searchlight Pictures
The Zong massacre case, known officially as Gregson v. Gilbert (1783), was not the landmark, pro-abolition decision this movie portrayed it to be. It avoided the issue of slavery altogether, and never actually reached a final decision. Lord Chief Justice William Murray, 1st Earl of Mansfield, called for another trial which never came to court. It is assumed that the matter was settled privately. Lord Mansfield presided over an earlier case that became very important to the abolitionist movement. In Somerset v. Stewart (1772), Lord Mansfield concluded that slavery could only be legal through statute, and since such statute did not exist, there was no legal basis for slavery in England and Wales. This movie steals a line from Somerset v. Stewart and uses it in Gregson v. Gilbert to use the wider implications of Somerset v. Stewart for dramatic effect. In the film, Lord Mansfield's judgment shows that there was enough evidence to suggest that the slavers committed fraud, and that Lord Mansfield personally disliked the idea of slavery. He says nothing about the legality of slavery in England and Wales, nor the legality of insuring humans as cargo. See more »
During Mansfield's conversation, an electric candlestick is visible on the wall. See more »
Captain Sir John Lindsay:
How lovely she is. So much of her mother. Do not be afraid. I am here to take you to a good life. A life that you were born to. Here.
[offers a candy]
[tries it with curiosity]
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I saw this film at the San Francisco International Film Festival. I don't usually see two films in one day and was tired after already seeing another film, but Belle woke me up. I really enjoyed it.
This film would have been OK as a total fiction but given that it was based on a true story, I found it fascinating. Set in England in the late 1700's, it shows the impact of the slave trade on society. The patriarch of the family is a justice of the High Court of England and takes on an important case regarding a slave trading ship while confronting the reality of limitations faced by his mulatto niece. It shows that when someone becomes part of your family, and you love that person, it changes your perspective on cultural norms. This film has prompted me to look into the history of the actual legal case involved.
The film also showed the similarities between his white and mulatto nieces: as women both had a price on their heads and suffered due to their "place" in that society beneath men... This film showed that while much has changed, many attitudes have not changed in 300 years... The two brothers who court the nieces could have come from any current film if they just updated their styles of clothes, hair, and accents.
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