“When I look in the mirror I see the woman I knew I wanted to be as a child. When I was a young girl, I had a vision of the woman I wanted to be. And I often reached out to women of color in America for inspiration. My mother would regularly buy Essence and Ebony. I would look at those magazines filled with images of professional, intelligent women of color who knew who they were, who enjoyed who they were, and who were surrounded by other people who enjoyed who they were. When I look in the mirror, I’m really glad that that’s what I see today, but it took a while to get here.” – Amma Asante
Today is Amma Asante’s birthday! The British screenwriter and former actress helmed four feature films and is the first woman to receive the British Urban Film Festival honorary award from actress Doña Croll for her outstanding contribution to film and television. Her work primarily explores sociopolitical themes relating to cultural conflict and gender and race roles with a focus on interracial relationships. She also directed episodes of The Handmaid’s Tale, a dystopian series based on Margaret Atwood’s book of the same name, and Mrs. America, a historical drama miniseries. Both television shows deal profoundly with women’s rights, highlighting Asante’s passion for social justice.
In 2016, she released A United Kingdom, which tells the true story of Seretse Khama, the King of Bechuanaland (now known as modern Botswana), and Ruth Williams, a London office worker. They were married despite opposition from their families as well as the British and South African governments. Elyse B. Thaler’s review for FF2 describes this inspirational tale as a “beautiful and well thought out love story from the 1940s while still being relevant for today’s time and audience. Superb acting, visually appealing shots, and also a lovely notion that even if we disagree in the beginning, that does not close all the doors to one day coming together side by side as members of the human species.” You can read the rest of Elyse’s thoughts here.
Asante is somewhat of a controversial filmmaker, however. Most notably, her film Where Hands Touch received mixed feedback from critics when it premiered in 2018. The movie depicts a romance between Leyna, a biracial teen in Nazi Germany, and Lutz, the son of an SS officer and a member of the Hitler Youth. Lesley Coffin’s piece for FF2 addresses the filmmaker’s arguments head-on. At the premiere, Asante stated, “It would have made no sense for me to come to this in a way that tried to humanize Nazism. That’s just not who I am. Intention is everything.” According to Lesley, “Asante is accurate that the film never sympathizes or tries to give reason for the Nazi beliefs. Instead, she focuses more so on the larger population of Germany (and the world at that time).”
Celebrate Amma Asante’s birthday by checking out Nicole Ackman’s comprehensive overview of the director here. Learn about the ways in which Asante uses her films to shed light on little-known history, setting herself apart from other filmmakers as someone who makes unique period dramas with themes that remain relevant today.
©Anna Nappi (9/13/21) Special for FF2 Media
CREDITS & PERMISSIONS
Featured photo: Gugu Mbatha-Raw in Amma Asante’s Belle.
Top photo: “Amma Asante Belle” by Ross Belot is licensed with CC BY 2.0. To view a copy of this license, visit https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/