Ghanaian-British Filmmaker Amma Asante spoke to BBC’s Mark Kermode about her movies ‘Belle,’ ‘A United Kingdom‘ and the forthcoming ‘Where Hands Touch.’
Asante was recently honoured with an MBE for her services to the film industry during the Queen’s Birthday Honours.
An MBE is Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire, and is an award given by the Queen to an individual for outstanding service to the community or local ‘hands on’ service.
Listen to interview below.
Amma Asante was born in London to Ghanaian parents.
She trained at the Barbara Speake Stage School. Kwame Kwei-Armah, Michelle Gayle and Naomi Campbell were some of her schoolmates.
Asante was a member of the cast of BBC’s Grange Hills, and also appeared in other productions in the late 80’s and early 90’s.
She owns Tantrum Films, and was head writer for BBC2 series Brothers & Sisters.
She speaks fondly of her relationship with her dad, who died during the filming of Belle. In an interview with The Guardian, she said her dad was loving but strict. A saying by her dad “What is right can never be impossible” was included in the above-named film.
What matters to Asante is “passion for the project and a vision. As a director, you are the only person carrying the bigger picture and every tiny detail. It is about keeping a cohesive, creative, motivated vibe going.” she told The Guardian in a 2014 interview.
She was invited by the prestigious Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to join its class of 2016 in its push for diversity at the Oscars after severe backlash in previous years.
She made history as the first Black Female Filmmaker to open the 2016 BFI London Film Festival in its 60 years of operation with her movie A United Kingdom.
Asante and the cast of the movie received a standing ovation when it premiered at the 2016 Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF).
The movie is based on the true story of Botswana’s first president, Seretse Khama (played by David Oyelowo), who fell in love with a London office worker, Ruth Williams (Rosamund Pike), who became the First Lady of Botswana.
News organizations including BBC, The HollyWood Reporter and The Guardian gave the movie a rating of at least 4 star. The Daily Mail called the film “unmissable…one of the best films of the Year.”
It was Asante’s third feature film in about twelve years.
‘A Way of Life’ (2004) which was about a group of white teenagers who persecute and eventually murder their Turkish Muslim neighbour and the critically acclaimed ‘Belle’ (2014), a movie about the illegitimate, mixed-race daughter (played by Gugu Mbatha-Raw) of a British admiral who played an important role in the campaign to abolish slavery in England are the other ones.
The former won her the Carl Forman Award at the 2005 BAFFTA (British Academy of Film andTelevision Arts), and the film won UK Film Talent Award at the 2004 London Film Festival.
She was chosen by BAFFTA as a ‘Brit to Watch’ after the release of the movie ‘Belle’. TV Mogul Oprah Winfrey tweeted about the movie after watching it, urging her followers not to miss out on the movie.
In between ‘A Way of Life’ and ‘Belle’, Asante worked on a number of projects including researching Europol to create an Uber policeman character on a studio project.
She is married to the male Europol agent she met whilst working on the research.
“I was researching Europol agents because I was trying to create an uber policewoman. Europol is the FBI of Europe – or so I am told – and the man I was sent to meet was Soren Pedersen, spokesman for European police in The Hague,” she told The Guardian in 2014.
“Soren and I had one date and decided to move in and get married. I know! I’m a crazy woman. But I looked at him and thought: ‘he is going to be my husband. And I didn’t want to waste time because I was 37 and didn’t have time to waste.”
Amma Asante’s brilliance and film making talent has certainly placed Ghana on the World map in more than one way.