13 September 1969 |
Lambeth, London, England
|Occupation||Screenwriter, film director, actress|
|Notable work||A Way of Life
Amma Asante MBE (born 13 September 1969) is a British screenwriter, film director, and former actress. She wrote and directed A Way of Life (2004). Her second film as a director was Belle in 2013.
Asante was born in London in 1969, to Ghanaian parents; her father was an accountant, and her mother ran a deli. Asante attended the Barbara Speake stage school in Acton, London, where she trained in dance and drama. 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.
Writing and directing career
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 BBC2 drama Brothers and Sisters.
Asante used Tantrum Films to make her directorial debut with a feature film, A Way of Life (2004). It was developed and financed through the UK Film Council and produced by Peter Edwards, Patrick Cassavetti and Golden Globe Award and BAFTA Award winner Charlie Hanson. On 17 January 2005, the Times said of Asante, "She is one of the most exciting prospects in British cinema to emerge in the past 12 months."
In November 2004, the London Film Festival awarded Asante the inaugural Alfred Dunhill UK Film Talent Award. 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, which she has since cited as being a big break in her career. The 2005 Miami International Film Festival awarded A Way of Life as 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. The film stars Academy Award nominees Tom Wilkinson as Lord Mansfield, who as a justice ruled on two important cases related to slavery; Emily Watson as his wife; and Miranda Richardson, alongside rising stars Sarah Gadon, Tom Felton, and Sam Reid, with Gugu Mbatha-Raw as the eponymous Dido Elizabeth Belle.
Belle was the third project to receive investment from Pinewood Studios as part of its Pinewood Films initiative, established to help fund and support British independent films. The film was shot on location in the Isle of Man, London, and Oxford.
It was distributed through Fox Searchlight Pictures. On 19 September 2013, the Daily Mail reported that Asante was denied writing credit on the film, due to arbitration about contested credit by the Writers Guild of America.
A special screening of the film was held at the United Nations headquarters in New York on 2 April 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 January 2014 it was announced that Asante would direct a thriller, Unforgettable, for Warner Bros. She eventually left the project, announcing in March 2015 that she would instead be directing A United Kingdom a period piece based on the romance between Seretse Khama and his wife Ruth Williams Khama.
In June 2016, the BFI announced that A United Kingdom would open the 60th London Film Festival. 
Asante is a past elected member of BAFTA Council and a past BAFTA Film committee member. In 2014 she was made an Honorary Associate of the London Film School where she earlier served as a Governor (2006–2007).
Asante was previously married to producer Charlie Hanson. She is now married to Søren Pedersen, spokesman for European police in the Hague.
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