Amma Asante is Britain’s director to watch3 minute read

In Hollywood, the lights are brighter. This is one of many reasons the talented British screenwriter and director Amma Asante, whose parents are Ghanaian, is not a household name. But she should be. In order to address that here is a five-point guide to the visionary.

  1. Source: Youtube/ Grange Hill Fans / Buzzing Rocks

    Her foray into the world of film started with “her career as a child actress, appearing as a regular in the popular British school drama Grange Hill.” Grange Hill was filled with lots of teenage angst and struggles similar to the Canadian show Degrassi. Which is why Grange Hill lead to Amma and eight other Grange Hill kids being a part of the “Just Say No” campaign of the 1980s.

2. Her films always tend to have an aspect of social commentary. Starting with A Way of Life her director directorial debut that she wrote the screenplay for. The film premiered at Toronto International Film Festival. Amma won 17 international awards for the feature and also received the BAFTA Carl Foreman Award for Special Achievement by a writer/director.

Her second feature film, Belle, stars Gugu Mbatha-Raw and Tom Wilkinson. The film is inspired by the true story of Dido Elizabeth Belle a bi-racial woman born into an aristocratic family. Making Belle Britain’s first black aristocrat.

Amma has said she understands Belle because: “Although I’m not bi-racial, I’m bi-cultural, I walk that division every day subtly and unsubtly, consciously and unconsciously. I am that familiar and unfamiliar character in the world.”

Amma’s third feature film was A United Kingdom, starring David Oyelowo and Rosamund Pike, the true story about Sir Seretse Khama the first president of Botswana and his white, British wife Ruth Williams Khama.

3. In her 2014 Ted Talk ‘The Power of defining yourself”, she said considers herself, “a black British woman… proudly born to Ghanaian parents”. Amma says the journey of defining herself is an ongoing experience that she is working on every day. Fun fact: With over 618K+ views she is the most watched Ghanian on Ted Talk. Others on the list are Komla Dumor and Taiye Selasi.

4. After directing highly successful films, one may think that Amma has enough clout to continue making films without having to continue to hustle. Alas, that couldn’t be further from the truth. In a must-see interview, Amma explains: “I think the biggest challenge really is, gaining funding when on the face of it people are very open to the idea of diversity. But what you’re often faced with is… you are invited to the table but sort of still expected to speak with the same voice and the same language as those who have been privileged to have, sort of privilege of making films before. And of course, as a black female, I’m coming to it slightly differently. I’m coming to it with, not just the unique vision of myself as a human being, but with my experience being a black female. I think financiers are used to your stock standard filmmaker…”

For more harsh truths about the film industry but also sage advice for all the filmmakers out there be sure to check it out here

5. This Sunday night, Amma’s fourth feature film, Where Hands Touch, will premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival. It took Amma a little over ten years to research and write this film “after discovering the existence of complex lives for children of colour in WWII Germany.” Amandla Stenberg stars as a biracial teenager whose coming of age story is set against the backdrop of Nazi Germany.

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Julia Chanda Zvobgo is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of ‘Of Africa’. She was born in Zimbabwe and raised in The Netherlands. As an Afropean she is always looking for new and creative ways to “make the invisible, visible”. She is a co-founder and a member of 'ethnovision' a collective of visual anthropologists and filmmakers. Julia also volunteers as the Director of Communications & Development for Tariro House of Hope, an NGO that transforms the lives of children and their communities in Zimbabwe.