Amma Asante

Amma Asante MBE (born 13 September 1969) is a British filmmaker, screenwriter, and former actress. Her Ghanaian mother was an entrepreneur who owned her own African cosmetics and grocery store.[1] Her father, also Ghanaian, was a trained accountant who later received qualifications to work in the United Kingdom. Her love for the film industry started when she received her first role in BBC’s Grange Hill.[1] Later, she was given the opportunity to travel to Washington, DC, for an anti-drugs campaign, where she met former First Lady Nancy Reagan.[1] Before the early 2000’s, Asante wrote and produced the (BBC 2) series Brothers and Sisters, starring David Oyelowo.[1] She was a childhood friend of model Naomi Campbell, whom she met when they were seven years old.[2]

Amma Asante

Asante in 2015
Born (1969-09-13) 13 September 1969
  • Screenwriter
  • film director
  • actress
Years active1986–present
Søren Pedersen (m. 2007)

Early and personal life

Asante attended the Barbara Speake Stage School in Acton, London, where she trained in dance and drama.[3] 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.[4] She gained credits in other British television series, including Desmond's (Channel 4) and Birds of a Feather (BBC 1), and was a Children's Channel presenter for a year.

Asante was previously married to producer Charlie Hanson. She is now married to Søren Pedersen, spokesman for European police in the Hague.[5]

Writing and directing career

Amma Asante’s career started when she first attended a performing arts school that allowed her to draft her first sitcom script.[1] Later, she became a child actress and made her first appearances in Grange Hill and ’’Desmond's’’.[6] In her late teens, Asante left acting and worked in screenwriting with a development deal from Chrysalis. She founded a production company, Tantrum Films, where she wrote and produced two series of the (BBC2) drama Brothers and Sisters (1998).

Asante used Tantrum Films to make her directorial debut with a feature film, A Way of Life (2004).[3] 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. Her first film, A Way of Life, focused on the life of a single mother, played by Stephanie James. It details the reality of a woman who recounts the suicidal death of her mother and the presence of foster care. It also introduces her brother Gavin, played by Nathan Jones, who was also taken into foster care.[6] As a young seventeen-year-old, Leigh Anne (Stephanie James), finds it difficult to get by, especially due to the medical expenses that her daughter Eli Williams, incurred. It also touches on the theme of racism, with their neighbour Hassan Osman (played by Oliver Haden), who had been the victim of a beating, after being accused of reporting Leigh Anne to social services for child neglect.[6] The film has been described as ‘one of the most warmly received UK titles in the London Film Festival in the autumn and a harrowing drama in social realist mode’.[6] On 17 January 2005, the Times said, "She is one of the most exciting prospects in British cinema to emerge in the past 12 months".[7]

In November 2004, the London Film Festival awarded Asante the inaugural Alfred Dunhill UK Film Talent Award.[8] In February 2005 Asante was awarded The Times's Breakthrough Artist of the Year and was 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.[9][10] The 2005 Miami International Film Festival awarded A Way of Life as Best Dramatic Feature in World Cinema[11] and the FIPRESCI prize (International Federation of Film Critics prize) for Best Feature Film.[12][13] The Wales Chapter of BAFTA gave A Way of Life four of its top awards in April 2005, including Best Director and Best Film.[14][15] 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), is a sub-genre of both feminism and racism.[16] The film is based on Dido Elizabeth Belle, and depicts an illegitimate mixed-race daughter of an enslaved African woman and a British navy captain. They placed the girl with his uncle (and Belle's great-uncle) Lord Mansfield and his wife in late 18th-century London.[17] In this film, Dido was being raised by a white aristocratic family and acquired many intellectual skills. Dido uses her personal experiences to debate the social and structural issues of her time, like the patriarchy and lack of representation for visible minorities.[16] Dido’s role in the film has been said to be “a way that is usually denied to historical black women”.[16] The film touches on the Zong marine case, where the Captain falsely claims damages from his insurer for the loss of his 133 enslaved Africans.[16] The Captain was not able to get compensated, so his case was escalated to the higher court, where Lord Chief Justice Mansfield, (Dido’s great-uncle and guardian), was in charge of. 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.[18][19] The film was shot on location in the Isle of Man, London and Oxford. It was distributed through Fox Searchlight Pictures.[20] 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.[21] 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 screening at the United Nations headquarters.[22] The same week, Asante was honoured by BAFTA in both Los Angeles and New York as a "Brit to Watch", where special screenings of Belle held to celebrate her work.[23] At the 2014 Miami International Film Festival, Asante was awarded The Signis Award as director of Belle.[24]

In January 2014, it was announced that Asante would direct a thriller, Unforgettable, for Warner Bros.[25] 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.[26] In 2016, Asante directed the film A United Kingdom, and features David Oyelowo and Rosamund Pike.[27] Oyelowo and Pike served as the main protagonists in the film, who were an interracial couple in the British Empire of London.[27] They received a lot of backlash for their union and were later forced to move from their home country, Bechuanaland (Botswana). A United Kingdom is based on the Colour Bar book, written by Susan William’s, and details the story of Prince Seretse Khama and Ruth Williams.[27] Brunson Green details the filming process by explaining “you could tell there were about 250 movie moments in this biography of this amazing couple, and so we kind of culled through all those moments and tried to figure out a storyline”.[27] During the IFP Gotham Independent Film Awards ceremony, Oyelowo mentions adding A United Kingdom to his list of movies, for being an African based story directed by a female filmmaker.[27] In June 2016, the BFI announced that A United Kingdom would open the 60th London Film Festival.[28]

Asante was appointed Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) in the 2017 Birthday Honours for services to film.[29]

Asante directed "Useful", episode 3 in series 3 of Hulu streaming service's series The Handmaid's Tale. The series is based on Canadian writer Margaret Atwood's 1985 novel of the same name. The episode first screened on June 5, 2019. Ref

Professional associations

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[30] where she earlier served as a Governor (2006–2007).



Year Title Role
2004 A Way of Life Director and screenplay
2013 Belle Director
2016 A United Kingdom Director
2018 Where Hands Touch Director and screenplay


Year Title Role Notes
2019 The Handmaid's Tale Director 2 episodes [31]


  1. Jacobs, Emma (10 November 2016). "Film-maker Amma Asante on race, Brexit and meeting Prince". Financial Times. Retrieved 19 October 2018.
  2. @AmmaAsante (18 November 2017). "My school-friend @NaomiCampbell has been showing us the possibilities for decades, challenging glass ceilings and raising the bar. Thank you for the example Naomi 🖤🖤🖤" (Tweet). Retrieved 19 November 2017 via Twitter.
  3. Greer, Bonnie (8 November 2004). "From Grange Hill to the valleys". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 25 January 2010.
  4. "Gritty debut hits hard for ex-Grange Hill star". Birmingham Evening Mail. 4 February 2005. Archived from the original on 2 November 2012. Retrieved 25 January 2010.
  5. Kellaway, Kate (18 May 2014). "Amma Asante: 'I'm bi-cultural, I walk the division that Belle walked every day'". The Observer.
  6. Hockenhull, Stella (2017). British Women Film Directors in the New Millennium. doi:10.1057/978-1-137-48992-0. ISBN 978-1-137-48991-3.
  7. "South Bank Show Breakthrough Star". The Times. pp. 2–3.
  8. BFI London Film Festival#2005
  9. "Race film joy for debut director". BBC. 13 February 2005. Retrieved 25 January 2010.
  10. "60 Seconds With... Amma Asante". BAFTA Guru. 6 August 2014. Retrieved 17 August 2015.
  11. "The Winners of the 2005 Miami Film Festival Competition are....... : Miami IMC". Archived from the original on 16 December 2013. Retrieved 12 May 2014.
  12. Sutter, Mary (14 February 2005). "Way of Life Takes Miami Honors: Asante's Pic Earns Top Accolades at Festival". Variety. Retrieved 9 October 2013.
  13. "Miami International Film Festival – 2005 Winners". Archived from the original on 5 February 2017. Retrieved 12 May 2014.
  14. "Baftas A Way of Life for ITV Wales – Wales Online". 25 April 2005. Retrieved 12 May 2014.
  15. "Ifans clinches Bafta 'Grand Slam'". BBC News. 24 April 2005.
  16. Taylor, Jessica (26 September 2018). "'How Can I be Too High in Rank to Dine with the Servants, but Too Low to Dine with My Family?': Intersectionality and Postfeminism in Amma Asante's Belle". Gender & History. 30 (3): 769–785. doi:10.1111/1468-0424.12403. ISSN 0953-5233.
  17. "Toronto 2013: Starred Up, Belle, The Invisible Woman, Dom Hemingway, The Double | The Empire Blog". Retrieved 12 May 2014.
  18. Staff, THR (11 September 2013). "'Belle' Star Gugu Mbatha-Raw is the Only British Actor Who's Never Done a Period Film". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 9 October 2013.
  19. Redcarpetdiaries. "The New Film Belle by Director Amma Asante Now Running at TIFF 2013". Dailymotion. Retrieved 9 October 2013.
  20. Alexander, Bryan (21 July 2013). "'Belle' breaks through the aristocratic color barrier". USA Today.
  21. Bamigboye, Baz (19 September 2013). "'I'm going to be fired!': Cate Blanchett spent a week thinking she was going to be axed by Woody Allen". Daily Mail. London.
  22. "We screened BELLE at the UN and this is what happened | Blog | Fox Searchlight". Retrieved 12 May 2014.
  23. Kemp, Stuart (11 March 2014). "BAFTA to Give Brit Filmmaker Amma Asante U.S. Showcase". The Hollywood Reporter.
  24. "Signis". Archived from the original on 13 April 2014. Retrieved 12 May 2014.
  25. Dave, McNary (9 January 2014). "Warner Bros. Rings 'Belle' Director for New Thriller". Variety.
  26. Kit, Borys. "'Belle' Filmmaker to Direct David Oyelowo, Rosamund Pike in 'A United Kingdom' (Exclusive)". Retrieved 22 September 2015.
  27. Winfrey, Graham (17 February 2017). "'A United Kingdom': Why David Oyelowo's Passion Project Is Competing for Audiences With Oscar Contenders". IndieWire. Retrieved 19 October 2018.
  28. Korsner, Jason (21 June 2016). "A United Kingdom To Open London Film Festival 2016". Retrieved 21 June 2016.
  29. "No. 61962". The London Gazette (Supplement). 17 June 2017. p. B15.
  30. "Honorary Associates | London Film School". Retrieved 12 May 2014.
  31. Tutt2018-12-06T04:26:00+00:00, Louise. "Amma Asante, Deniz Gamze Erguven join directors of 'The Handmaid's Tale' season three (exclusive)". Screen. Retrieved 17 June 2019.

Further reading

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