A United Kingdom director Amma Asante is using her seat behind the camera to inspire the next generation of female filmmakers.
- Posted on Mar 7, 2017
Critically acclaimed director Amma Asante's latest film, A United Kingdom, is in theaters now, and it's a milestone worth noting. She's beating the odds as a Black woman filmmaker who has released four feature-length films in the past 13 years.
Asante is not only celebrating her success, she's committed to sharing it. She made a personal decision to mentor aspiring women directors.
“It shouldn’t be a privilege in the world we live in today, but it is,” Asante tells Guideposts.org of her directorial success. She shares her story at a New York press junket for her latest film, which stars Guideposts’ cover star David Oyelowo and Rosemund Pike.
"Simply being a female film director is a privilege," she says, "but when we hit the intersection [of race], understanding what it takes for any female film director to get to a third film yet alone a fourth , is almost tantamount to winning the lottery.”
According to a recent study by the University of Southern California's Annenberg’s Media, Diversity & Social Change Initiative 80 percent of female directors made just one film in the past ten years. For female directors of color, the odds are even greater at 83.3 percent. It's not for lack of talent that women and women of color directors are able to make so few films, it's lack of support.
That reality was simply unacceptable for Asante, whose experience creating critically acclaimed films would be invaluable to any aspiring director.
In addition to A United Kingdom, she directed the award-winning film, A Way of Life in 2004. Her critically acclaimed second film Belle followed almost 10 years later in 2013. The 47-year-old BAFTA award winner has just wrapped production on her fourth film Where Hands Touch, starring teen icon Amandla Stenberg, which will be released later this year.
Her commitment to helping others began 3 years ago.
In 2014, the director found herself on stage in New York, accepting an award alongside Katie Couric and Barbara Walters. The women were honored by Gloria Steinem’s organization for their exemplary work in media and for being strong role models for women in the industry. That experience, and the mantra of Steinem’s organization, “Each One, Teach One,” resonated with the director.
“I made a commitment to myself that whenever I could, I’d bring an aspiring female director to shadow me in order to offer the universe gratitude and to pass on the opportunity,” Asante said.
She made good on that promise during filming of A United Kingdom in Botswana where four aspiring female directors, two from California, one from Uganda and one from the U.K. were invited on set to watch Asante work and learn from her leadership abilities.
“I’m privileged and I want others to share in that same privilege,” Asante said. “I cannot show a person how to make a film over the period of eight weeks. It’s just not possible. What I can do is show them what a Black female look likes in leading, to allow them to hold that vision in their head as they move forward. I can allow them to see what it takes to stand up to a lot of men when it comes to insuring that your vision is projected on screen and allow them to absorb that same power so that they can carry if forward themselves.”
Now that filming has ended, Asante keeps in touch with the women, excited to see where their careers take them and ready to step in to offer whatever help she can in bringing their own visions to life. For the director, it’s all about leaving a positive legacy and advancing progress – something she has in common with the heroes of her films.
“I don’t have children, I have my films and I have whatever is left of what I give of myself to other people,” Asante says. “I hope that when I’m gone, my legacy will be the films and also whatever I’ve been able to offer to these women.”