Earlier this year, the film 12 Years A Slave — a searingly brutal account of the helplessness of 19th-century slaves in America’s Deep South — swept the 'best picture' category at the leading Hollywood award ceremonies.

Now, a new film made in Britain will tell the story of the remarkable relationship that may have lain at the heart of the abolition of slavery on this side of the Atlantic. It centres on the 1st Earl of Mansfield, the most influential Lord Chief Justice of the 18th century, and the woman he helped to raise — Dido Elizabeth Belle, the daughter of a black slave woman.

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