Culture of Life Studies
Movie Discussion Guide: Belle (2014) (Digital Download)
Based on the true story of Dido Elizabeth Belle, the film tells the story of the mixed-race daughter of a naval officer who is brought up in the home of her great-uncle, the Lord Chief Justice of England, Lord Mansfield. Because of her skin color, Dido fills an odd place in society—too aristocratic to dine with the servants, too low born to dine with her family when they have guests.
When Mr. Davinier, a law student, tells Dido about the tragedy of the Zong, a human cargo ship whose slaves were thrown overboard and drowned by the crew, her heart is moved with pity. In the court case related to this incident, Gregson v. Gilbert, the insurance company refuses to pay the slave traders for the slaves who were lost at sea, claiming they were murdered.
The case progresses to the highest court where Dido’s great-uncle, the Lord Chief Justice, must decide whether or not the slave traders were justified in their actions and deserve to be paid their insurance money. Belle eloquently portrays the racism of the time before the abolition of the slave trade in England, when even an aristocratic black woman is not allowed the same privileges of her class.
Recommended for junior high school and up.
- Complete story summary
- Teacher notes and discussion guide
- Life Theme
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