Saturday, 3 November 2012

Period Dramas and Natural Hair

I'm a big fan of Downton Abbey (I've recently finished watching Series 2 and just bought the Christmas special), so imagine my shock when I saw Penelope Wilton otherwise known as the character Isobel Crawley, step out in front of me yesterday. Any other time I would have mustered the courage to stop say how brilliant I think she is, but considering the whole, brief scenario happened at the hospital, it somehow didn't feel appropriate. (But it made for pleasant conversation with the other lady who got into the lift with me.)
Downton's Isobel & Matthew (source)

Coincidently, it just so happens that while scrolling through the net today, I came across these pictures of a new film scheduled for release in Spring 2013, that Wilton will apparently be appearing in.
Image Source

At first I was surprised - natural hair in a period drama!?
A black female in 18th Century Aristocratic costume?!
I'm not majorly into films but the rarity of images such as these led me to try and find out a bit more.
Image Source

The actress is British born Gugu Mbatha-Raw and according to she'll be staring as "a mixed-race woman raised as an aristocratic lady in 18th century England" in the movie
Image Source

According to the BFI's website, Belle was inspired by a 1779 painting of Dido Elizabeth Belle.
(Dido Elizabeth Belle (1761-1804), "the illegitimate daughter of John Lindsay (a white British Naval Officer) and an African slave woman known only as Belle." sources*)
 In addition to this I was especially impressed when I discovered that it is written and directed by a black British female called Amma Asante.
Like I said, I'm not particularly knowledgeable about the film world so I hadn't heard of Asante before, but since doing a bit of research, I've discovered that she had some pretty major achievements to be celebrated.
Image Source

previously won a BAFTA award for her first film (A Way Of Life), and considering I can't name one other black British female who's won a BAFTA, besides Thandie Newton (I think), I'm very impressed.
It seems Asante has successfully made the transition from on-screen to behind the scenes, having appeared in a number of classic 90's TV programmes including Birds of A Feather, and Desmonds; before going on write Brothers & Sisters, which was possibly the best black British soap-opera EVER! (In my opinion).
Does Anyone else remember it?

It's amazing to discover that this woman has played such an important part in addressing the absence of British black women on screen, and is continuing to do so. I'm officially inspired and cannot wait for the release of Belle, next Spring.


  1. Fascinating. You might want to check this out too! :

  2. Great post Crystal. You saw Isobel *squeals* :)

  3. I LUV period dramas and film and I do believe that I've seen that painting before somewhere. So I'm really looking forward to this film. I'm pleased that we will not have long to wait to see it.


Thank you for commenting. Keep in touch on Facebook & Twitter @CrystalAfro. xx