Amma Asante is an award-winning British screenwriter and director known for her films A Way of Life and Belle.
Asante was born in London in 1969. She began her film and television career as a child actress, appearing as a regular in the British school drama Grange Hill. She appeared in the "Just Say No" campaign of the 1980s and was one of nine Grange Hill children to take it to the Reagan White House. She gained credits in other British television series, including “Desmond's” (Channel 4) and “Birds of a Feather” (BBC1), and was a Children's Channel presenter for a year.
In her late teens, Asante left acting and worked in screenwriting with a development deal from Chrysalis. She founded a production company, Tantrum Films, and wrote and produced two series of the urban drama “Brothers and Sisters,” for BBC2.
Asante used Tantrum Films to make her directorial debut with a feature film, A Way of Life (2004). Her film was well-received and has won numerous awards.
In November 2004, the London Film Festival awarded Asante the inaugural Alfred Dunhill UK Film Talent Award, created to recognize the achievements of a new or emerging British writer/director who has shown great skill and imagination in bringing originality and verve to film-making. In February 2005, Asante was awarded the The Times's Breakthrough Artist of the Year and nominated for Best Newcomer at both the Evening Standard and London Film Critics award ceremonies.
That same month at the BAFTA Film Awards, Asante received the Carl Foreman Award for Special Achievement by a British Writer, Director, or Producer in Their First Feature Film. The 2005 Miami International Film Festival awarded A Way of Life the distinction of Best Dramatic Feature in World Cinema and the FIPRESCI prize (International Federation of Film Critics prize) for Best Feature Film.
The Wales Chapter of BAFTA gave A Way of Life four of its top awards in April 2005, including Best Director and Best Film. Additionally, Asante was awarded for this film by the San Sebastian Film Festival in Spain and the Mar del Plata Film Festival in Argentina. Asante has developed film projects in both the UK and US. Her second feature film, Belle (2013), was based on Dido Elizabeth Belle, an illegitimate mixed-race daughter of an enslaved African woman and a British navy captain, who placed the girl with his uncle (and Belle's great-uncle) Lord Mansfield and his wife in late 18th-century London.
A special screening of the film was held at the United Nations headquarters in New York on April 2, 2014 as part of the UN commemorative events on slavery and the transatlantic slave trade. Asante and star Gugu Mbatha-Raw attended. The same week Asante was honoured by BAFTA in both Los Angeles and New York as a "Brit to Watch," where she attended special screenings of Belle held to celebrate her work. At the 2014 Miami International Film Festival, Asante was awarded The Signis Award as director of Belle.
In 2016, Asante directed the romance period piece A United Kingdom, starring David Oyelowo and Rosamund Pike.
Asante's 2018 film Where Hands Touch premiered at the 2018 Toronto International Film Festival. The film stars Amandla Stenberg and follows the story of a young biracial teenager who falls in love with the son of a prominent SS officer and member of the Hitler Youth.
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