Tag Archives: Gugu Mbatha-Raw

News & Gossip: Quick Read



Once again we have searched the web for interesting news and thought these articles would be of interest to you. its a mixture of awards news, Steve McQueen’s new American TV show, diversity in American TV and new film releases.

We hope you enjoy this quick read:


Gotham-awards 2014Nominations for the 2014 Gotham Independent Film Awards have been announced with Richard Linklater’s Boyhood getting four nominations, including one for best feature.

Also among the nominations are Justine Simien (Dear White People) for Breakthrough Director, the UK’s Gugu Mbatha-Raw (Beyond the Lights) for Best Actress and Tessa Thompson (Dear White People) for Breakthrough Actor.

Tessa Thompson

Tessa Thompson

Birdman and Boyhood have both been nominated for best feature, along with Wes Anderson’s The Grand Budapest Hotel, Ira Sachs’ Love is Strange and Jonathan Glazer’s Under The Skin.

This year’s Gotham’s audience award will be determined by online voting from members of the independent Filmmaker Project, the organisation that presents the annual awards. The award ceremony itself will take place on December 1st at Cipriani Wall Street in New York, British actress Tilda Swinton will also be honoured at the Ceremony.
Read more and a full list of nominees here at Indie Wire:



12 Years A Slave director Steve McQueen has a new project underway and it’s heading to America’s premium cable network HBO.

McQueen co-wrote the pilot script alongside Matthew Michael Carnaham writer of futuristic zombie film World War Z. Both will exec-produce alongside See-Saw Films’ Iain Canning and Emile Sherman and HBO’s Russell Simmons.

The pilot titled “Codes of Conduct” is described as a provocative exploration of a young African-American man’s experience on entering New York high society, with a past that may not be all it seems. The lead character is Beverly Snow; a young man from Queens who is as talented as his is ambiguous. His self-confidence will enable him to break into the social circles of Manhattan’s elite, testing the boundaries of access and social mobility. The series will follow Beverly’s ability to grant him access to a life larger in every way than the one he was born into. His chameleon-like approach to life will test his nerve and allow him to take his future into his own hands.

McQueen has cast an unknown actor as the lead in the project, Devon Terrell, McQueen who will direct the pilot said of Terrell; “I needed to find an extraordinary actor. Although you’re trying to find devon-terrellsomething you recognise, it’s more about finding something you’re surprised by. Devon has this quality. It was no easy task casting the lead character of Beverly Snow and, with the help of HBO, we left no stone unturned. This was a 10 month intense process in which we came across many talented actors, but only one Beverly!”

Born in California but raised in Perth, Australia Terrell studied drama at Edith Cowan University. He was also accepted into Australia’s prestigious National Institute of Dramatic Art in 2011 and has been developing his craft since. A transmission date for the pilot has not yet been set.


Check out this new clip of the next BET/Relativity Media-backed feature film from writer/director Gina Prince-Bythewood, “Beyond the Lights,” which tells the story of Noni Jean, a hot new recording artist who has just won a Grammy and is primed for stardom. But the pressures of success compel her to nearly end her life until she is saved by a young police officer. They fall hard for each other, despite the protests of their parents who want each to focus on their own career ambitions. But he might be the missing piece to unlock her artistic potential.

beyond-the-lightsBythewood’s “Beyond the Lights” stars Gugu Mbatha-Raw and Nate Parker, Danny Glover and Minnie Driver co-star.

Renowned black film producer’s Stephanie Allain and Reggie Rock Bythewood co-produce. Relativity president Tucker Tooley is exec producer with Matt Alvarez.

“Beyond the Lights” will be released theatrically in the US by Relativity, with an official release date now set for November 14, 2014. After that, it’ll have an exclusive television premier in the U.S. and South Africa on BET.

Sadly it doesn’t appear this film will get a UK release even though the lead character is supposed to come from London before moving the the states in the film.

Kush director Marlon Palmer met with Stepanie Allain early last year in London to discuss production locations here in the UK and the possibilities of assisting. Unfortunately nothing arose from this and it appears they made the entire film in the states.

This will be Bythewood’s first feature film directorial effort since 2008’s “The Secret Life of Bees”.



The results from the latest survey carried out by the Directors Guild of America have shocked some within the profession while confirming the fears of others. The DGA survey covered more than 3,500 episodes of US Television and revealed that minorities and women haven’t achieved significant progress in directing TV series.

Caucasian directors accounted for 81% of all prime-time episodes while only 14% of female directors where hired during the past season.

The 14% of female directors matches similar numbers for the previous season of American TV. Paris Barclay the DGA president said ‘Unfortunately, it can be shockingly difficult to convince the people who control the hiring to make even a small improvement to their hiring practices. But the end result is something worth fighting for”.

The report showed that some of the top US shows had not employed female or minority directors, these included; Boardwalk Empire, Fargo, Hannibal, Eastbound and Down and Resurrection.

Read the full report on the Directors Guild of America site here:




UK Actor David Oyelowo, star of Selma, The Butler, Interstellar and TV’s Spooks has praised Brad Pitt stating the actor “uses his power to get things done that otherwise wouldn’t” Pitt, previously a producer on ‘12 Years A Slave’ put his weight behind Selma when the project originally stalled and managed to get it fast tracked into production.

Selma follows Martin Luther King’s 1965 landmark voting campaign and was produced by Oprah Winfrey from a script rewritten by Ava DuVernay from an original screenplay by Paul Webb.

Black film advocate and rising star director Ava DuVernay also directs.

Selma is due in UK Cinemas on 6th February 2015 and you can read an interview with David.
Oyelowo on his role as Dr Martin Luther King here:

Interview with the writer of BELLE – Misan Sagay

written by Leslie Pitt



Leslie Pitt went to Kenwood House in Hampstead, London and spoke with screenwriter Misan Sagay about her upcoming feature; Belle, which will be theatrically released on June 13th.

Belle was inspired by a painting in St Andrew’s university, do you often find yourself inspired by art?
dido paintingNot really, oddly enough. I tend to be much more inspired by stories told by people. As you probably know; I’m a doctor when I’m not doing this, so I hear many stories every day, so I’m not usually inspired by art. Therefore looking at the painting and finding it so inspiring was an unusual thing. There are times when something really strikes a chord. Walking into that bedroom, seeing the painting and noticing that she wasn’t named, that was a seminal moment for me.

You were a medical student at the time, now an Award winning writer as well.  I must ask, what inspired the leap into writing?
As a Black women, I never saw myself on screen. I went to the cinema constantly as I love movies yet I never saw myself. I became increasingly frustrated. I said to myself: This is the narrative art form of our times! I wanted to watch my stories. So I began to write and the first thing I wrote was made! So it was a rather usually way into filmmaking.

Despite the advent of online, with the web being so important to us now, especially in the way of telling stories, do you still find that Black orientated stories are struggling  to break into the mainstream?
I don’t think they’re struggling to break through. I think people underestimate that our stories are more universal than often believed. When you look throughout history, we’ve been there. So we’ve had our stories, they just haven’t been told. I think part of the human experience is wanting to hear these stories. These stories aren’t just for us. They echo throughout so many different paths. So I think, we don’t make enough of them. I think we’d be surprised on just how huge the audience is when they’re made. Look at (the US TV series) Scandal.

The film itself has a very mannered feel of a Jane Austin story, yet the film has a really warm, modern approach to it. Was it hard to merge this combination of old and new?
It was. I think for me, going into this and wanting to write a love story was exactly the sort of ordinary humanity (I wanted to bring). We witness the day to day life of Belle, her loves, the things that matter to her. We’re with her at very intimate moments. I also think it was important for her to have a love story that wasn’t a thwarted one. People have asked me why I had a happy ending, because part of the cinematic convention is as Black people, we don’t (get happy endings). So come hell and high water Belle was going to have a happy ending in this film, she was going to get it all. Because that feeling of watching her struggle to find herself, demanding love and respect for what she was and getting it, I think is a great story. I certainly experienced that as warmth.

Screenplays get edited to a certain degree. They have to be quite tight before they can go on the screen. Was there anything that you would have liked to have seen expressed, which got left out?
No. In a way this wasn’t like that. There were different ways this story could go. One of the things I was asked a lot at the press junket in America was why didn’t we see the slaves (of the Zong slave ship)?  Whenever there’s a screenplay like this there’s always a lot (of material) and while we learn so much about Belle and the Zong, at some stage it has to be streamlined. You have to take the best of the elements. You must have these aspects of the story distilled. I think much of the story is distilled in the character of Belle herself. When it’s all said and done when the story is centred on her, you can’t go wrong.

Misan Sagay

The writer of Belle – Misan Sagay

You’ve mentioned in a piece for the Huffington Post: “From the start I avoided all the clichés, like the Black character who earns the acceptance of the white characters through superhuman feats of generosity and saint like goodness.” Is this something you still find stifling in modern storytelling?

I do. The pressure to do that (writing cliché) can be quite intense. You look around and you realise none of the white characters have to be virtually Francis of Assisi. It’s one of the cinematic clichés I most loathe. I don’t use that word lightly. I loathe having to sit there and watch a Black character begging for acceptance.

For me this was a film about agency. I didn’t want the film to be about Belle being freed or her earning her way. I wanted her to come in and say this no longer my moment of asking but a demand of her rights, respect and love. On her terms. It’s about a Black women saying ‘I am what I am and I like what I am’.

Apart from avoiding common cliches and “Wilberforcing” (rousing speeches by white characters to “save” the Black characters) what else did you do to keep Belle’s independence within the story?
By making it always about Belle and what she wants. I made sure Belle is the centre of the story, however much she was surrounded by people, whose stories are more familiar. I wanted to show Belle’s agency in the story and that she was a positive force.
When you look at what happened with the slavery story we have to ask what was taken? It wasn’t just our bodies or our spirits, but what almost didn’t survive was our stories. The ability to tell our own stories, craft our own narrative and tell the stories we wanted to tell. Now this is the moment that we’re able to do that. We’re telling our stories our way. In having a story with a character like Belle, her point in the story is to demand respect and not have to beg for it.


Leslie Pitt

Belle is released in cinemas on June 13th.
Watch the trailer here
Read our review here 

Interview with the star of BELLE – Gugu Mbatha-Raw

written by Leslie Pitt 



Leslie Pitt went to Kenwood House in Hampstead, London and spoke with actress Gugu Mbatha-Raw about her upcoming feature; Belle, which will be theatrically released on June 13th.

belle poster portraitI’d like to talk about your relationship with the director (Amma Asante). She seems to have a great way of getting balanced and nuanced performances from younger actors, like yourself. I’m wondering if you can delve into that a little.
It was so wonderful working with Amma. She really brings so much of herself into the story. I think she is so intelligent, articulate and has a great sense of aesthetic and beauty. On a personal level I think that really comes across in the sweeping nature of the film. In terms of working with her, she always focused on the idea that we wanted to concentrate on the heart of the story as much as we’re dealing with these potentially worthy issues of race, gender, equality, class and identity. We never forgot that we were dealing with human beings and that labelling them with these things is only going to limit you. You have to come at it at an emotional level and that’s how I work as an actress anyway so that was fantastic.
We talked a lot about humiliation for Dido as we’re not dealing with the brutality of slavery but the nuances of it in high society and how these daily humiliations can build and explode out of you. We plotted the moments of when she’s humiliated, when she holds her tongue, when she finally lets loose and attempted to give those moments a significance. We also talked a lot about Dido’s evolution from girl to woman. Something that Amma was constantly reminding me, as we were shooting out of context, was when we were seeing Dido the girl and dido the woman. So it was really great to have a character which had such an arc because you really feel that she’s grown by the end of the film and have become comfortable with who she is.

Dido is a smart and really distinctive role. Is that the kind of choice role that you’re looking for now?
Absolutely. This is my first lead role in a film and it’s been a real gift because Belle (also named Dido in the film) is intelligent, articulate and nuanced. The latest film that I finished; Blackbird, is with another female director of colour in America and while they’re very different films, that character is also dealing with identity issues in a modern context. I think the fascinating thing about working with female directors is their point of view. They often come at characters in a much more three dimensional perspective rather than give them a more functional role.

Pushing Plot?
Yeah, rather than just “the girl”, to have a female that’s front and centre of the film I find really exciting, because women are intelligent and want to see intelligent women. It’s not about bashing you over the head with the politics or anything like that, but to have multi-faceted characters to play. It’s great to get my teeth into roles like that and Belle has set the bar pretty high in terms of looking out for more layered material.

Despite living completely different lives did you find any parallels between yourself and Dido?
So many! I really did respond to where she ends up and the message of the film which is, to try and follow your instincts and not to let society define you. Don’t let people label you. Go and be who you are and respond to people on a human level. I think it’s important because people talk about black and white and mixed race and class and all of these labels but ultimately we all belong to one race, the human race. I think to celebrate what is similar to us as opposed to what divides us, I think that’s the only way, as a culture and as a society we can evolve. So on a macro level I think that’s really important about the film and spreading that message.

Which scene are you most proud of?
belle romanceI’m proud of the whole film! I think everyone has done such a beautiful job. There’s so many wonderful performances, such a great cast and it looks beautiful. Ben Smithard (director of photography) did such a beautiful job on a tight budget to make it look very sumptuous. So I’m proud of the film as a whole. There’s certain favourite scenes I have for various reasons. My favourite romantic scene is the one in Vauxhall Gardens where John and Dido seem to have their rendezvous and that first moment where there’s a real shift in their relationship. So that to me in terms of the romance is one of my favourites.
For Dido’s darker moments it’s probably the scene in the mirror where she’s clawing at her face I think it’s a really challenging and important scene in terms of establishing her frustration and a window into her soul so then we go on a journey with her to grow and encourage with her. My last final favourite scene is probably the scene with Lady Ashford where she breaks off the engagement. I feel like that’s the climax of her evolution and really is where she has a moment to stand up to herself.

My final question. With roles in Doctor Who and Jupiter Ascending, it seems you’re a bit of a Sci fi fan. What is your favourite sci-fi film?
I don’t have a particular favourite. I’m not really a Trekkie but I thought JJ Abram’s new Star Trek reboot I thought was really classily done. Seeing the way he dealt with reimaging that franchise I thought was really cool and I felt that it could be something for me now.

Thank you.

Leslie Pitt

Belle is released in cinemas on June 13th.
Watch the trailer here
Read our review here 

Film Review: Belle

Written by Leslie Byron Pitt



belle poster portrait

Released after the trail blazed by the searing 12 Years a Slave (2013), Belle is a film that owes more to the likes of Pride and Prejudice (2005) and Lincoln (2012) than Steve McQueen’s slave drama. Inspired by the 1779 painting of Dido Elizabeth Belle, the film tackles Dido’s societal standing within her family as an illegitimate mixed-race woman in the age of British slavery. Her relationship with an idealistic vicar’s lawyer son (Sam Reid), helps shape the views of her uncle (Tom Wilkinson), whose role of Lord Chief Justice may bring around the end of slavery in England.

Despite seeming at first worlds away from Amma Asante’s 2004 debut, A Way of Life, Belle delves into the idea of race as a restrictive societal construct. The film often lands Dido as a woman permanently stuck between two worlds, with her education and standing consistently at odds with her mixed-race heritage, and some (including a particularly insidious role by Tom Felton) not valuing any of her attributes at all.

Once again, Asante appears quite deft at showing women who are enclosed by suffocating circumstance and a society who cannot see past anything but the superficial. Scenes in which we notice Dido not being allowed to sit at the table when the family host dinner guests are played off against moments in which she display those talents she clearly holds. Much of the film’s strength stems from the fact that despite being a daughter of a slave, she excels within the opportunities that are given to her by her father’s higher class.

Dido’s home life runs parallel to her uncle’s role in the 1781 Zong Massacre, an actual event in which an African crew of 142 slaves were killed in a claim for insurance. The film balances the narrative’s issues well, with Asante confidently illustrating how the 1783 trial influences Dido and her sense of identity, and how she then in turn influences the trial.

095_Belle_ScreenGrab_039.JPGAn early American review stated that the film seemed too hesitant with the racism of the times, a statement that suggest that when it comes to such prejudice, we must only speak in obvious and belligerent tongues. As a fictional account of real-life event, Asante manages to inform viewers of the type of racism that we still witness now, with the lives of black people measured only in the value they can bring to white economics. The boat of slaves is looked at dispassionately as cargo, yet Dido’s very being, subtly counter-argues the situation from behind the scenes. The film may trail in the shadow of 12 Years a Slave but it deals with a similar message without the need of overt slurs, which is something that is often overlooked when considering conversations of race.

It is areas like this in which Belle as a film excels, evidence of Asante maturing greatly from when she first appeared on the directorial scene ten years ago. Her use of music is much more appropriate for each scene; a family sequence – involving who is asking for Dido’s and her cousin Elizabeth’s (Sarah Gadon) hand – is confidently edited in a way that shows just how assured Asante has become. The film perhaps unknowingly mirrors aspects of the director’s career in terms of visibility, however; the lengthy period of time between her critically-successful debut and Belle poses the question often asked about women and ethnic minorities working behind the camera. Belle shows both on- and off-screen that the talent is there if the opportunity is given, with Asante’s (uncredited) writing and direction giving the film a warmth that one rarely finds in similar period pieces that hold a too stuffy and mannered poise about themselves.

While the film may not hold the same amount of production costs as the likes of Joe Wright’s Pride and Prejudice, the film is confidently captured in its cinematography and costume design. The film also holds a solid cast with the likes of Tom Wilkinson and Emily Watson providing sturdy support for the doe-eyed yet dauntless lead performance from Gugu Mbatha-Raw whose chemistry with both Sarah Gadon and Reid, is naturalistic and affectionate. The success of Belle is that, like Pride and Prejudice, it is a film that confidently places intelligent women (both on and off screen) in the forefront. However Belle holds more to it than its romance. A character suggests that “Love is a complicated thing”. So is race relations, and Belle handles both well.

Leslie Byron Pitt


Belle is released in cinemas on June 13th
Watch the trailer here



Renaissance 2014 Black Movie Preview


By ReBecca Theodore-Vachon
Dec 27, 2013

black movies 2014

2013 was a win-win for Black cinema with both critically acclaimed movies (“12 Years A Slave,” “Fruitvale Station”) and in the box office (“Best Man Holiday,” “The Butler”).  Now that Hollywood has gotten the message that movies with casts of color are indeed profitable, 2014 promises more dramas, romantic comedies and action thrillers for Black moviegoers.

We’ve compiled a list of some of our most anticipated projects for 2014:

“Ride Along” Starring- Kevin Hart, Ice Cube, Tika Sumpter

UK Release Date: 07/03/2014

Fast-talking security guard Ben (Kevin Hart)  joins his cop brother-in-law James (Ice Cube)  on a 24-hour patrol of Atlanta in order to prove himself worthy of marrying Angela (Tika Sumpter), James’ sister.


“About Last Night”  Starring- Michael Ealy, Joy Bryant, Regina Hall, Kevin Hart

UK Release Date: 21/03/14

New love for two couples as they journey from the bar to the bedroom and are eventually put to the test in the real world.


“Repentance” Starring: Sanaa Lathan, Forest Whitaker, Anthony Mackie, Mike Epps

US Release Date: 02/28/2014

An earnest life-coach/author, Thomas Carter (Anthony Mackie), is mysteriously abducted by a deranged client, (Forest Whitaker) who delves into Thomas’ teachings and uses his spiritual messages of Karma – action and reaction (Vipaka), against him to terrorize him and his family for their past sins.


“The Single Moms Club” Starring: Nia Long, Tyler Perry, Amy Smart, Wendi McLendon-Covey, Terry Crews, Cocoa Brown

US Release Date: 03/14/2014

Brought together by a vandalism incident at their children’s school, a group of single mothers from different walks of life bond, and create a support group that helps them find comedy in the obstacles of life.


“A Haunted House 2″ Starring: Marlon Wayans, Liana Mendoza, Dave Sheridan, Iva La’Shawn

US Release Date: 03/28/2014

Having exorcised the demons of his ex, Malcolm (Marlon Wayans)  is starting fresh with his new girlfriend (Jaime Pressly) and her two children. After moving into their dream home, however, Malcolm is once again plagued by bizarre paranormal events.


“Belle” Starring: Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Susan Brown, Tom Coulston

UK Release Date: 13/06/2014

An illegitimate mixed race daughter of a Royal Navy Admiral is raised by her aristocratic great-uncle.


“Think Like A Man Too” Starring: Gabrielle Union, Megan Good, Regina Hall, Michael Ealy, Romany Malco, Kevin Hart

Release Date: 19/09/2014

All the couples are back for a wedding in Las Vegas, but plans for a romantic weekend go awry when their various misadventures get them into some compromising situations that threaten to derail the big event.



“Get On Up” Starring:  Chad Boseman, Tika Sumpter, Octavia Spencer, Viola Davis, Jill Scott

US Release Date: 08/01/2014

A chronicle of James Brown’s rise from extreme poverty to become one of the most influential musicians in history.



“Addicted” Starring: Sharon Leal, Kat Graham, Boris Kodjoe, William Levy, Tasha Smith, Tyson Beckford

US Release Date: 09/05/2014

Based on Zane’s bestseller, a woman’s sex addiction threatens to ruin her family life.



“No Good Deed” Starring: Idris Elba, Taraji P. Henson

US Release Date: 09/12/2014

A wife and mother of two (Taraji P. Henson), lives an ideal life that takes a turn when her family is threatened by a stranger who talks his way into her house, claiming car trouble. The unexpected invitation leaves her terrorized and fighting for survival.



“The Equalizer”
Starring – Denzel Washington, Chloe Grace Moretz, Melissa Leo, Marton Csokas

US Release Date: 09/26/2014

Denzel Washington and “Training Day” director Antoine Fuqua reunite for their second feature. Washington plays a covert operative who, seeking redemption for his dark deeds, quits a CIA-like agency and puts a classified advertisement in the paper that reads simply: “Got a problem? Odds against you? Call the Equalizer”



“Annie” Starring: Quevanzhane Wallis, Jamie Foxx, Dorian Missick, Cameron Diaz, Tracie Thoms, Rose Byrne

US Release Date: December 19, 2014


Source: http://theurbandaily.com/2013/12/27/2014-black-movie-preview/
© 2013