Already, Belle is being called Britain’s version of 12 Years a Slave because of its focus on Europe’s past. But it’s a different type of movie. You don’t see the brutality of slavery in Belle as you do in 12 Years. Rather, Belle deals with an important moment in the slave trade through people who had privilege, wealth and influence. That includes one mixed-race girl who most people do not know existed but whose presence at Mansfield’s home may have influenced history.
So don’t let the trailer fool you. Yes, Belle is an extraordinary story of love and self-discovery interwoven with universal themes of racism, sexism and class. It has all the elements that make for a good Hollywood flick, pretty people and all. Yet Asante hopes audiences will be entertained and enlightened as she tells, not only Belle’s story, but also the story of 133 people brutally murdered by the crew of the Zong.