Amma Asante, the young British writer-director who won this year’s best newcomer Bafta for “A Way of Life,” is developing two untitled projects worlds apart from her gritty debut.
The first is inspired by, but not directly based upon, the rise of U.S. secretary of state Condoleezza Rice. It’s a political thriller about the Iraq conflict, set in corridors of power in London and New York, and on the ground in Iraq.
The second is a period love story set in London toward the end of WWII, about experiences of a 17-year-old mixed-race French-Caribbean girl.
Both stories feature black characters and commercial genres in a way that Asante, who is black, consciously avoided in her debut “A Way of Life,” a low-budget tragedy about a white teenage girl in a poverty-stricken area of south Wales.
“I wanted to prove it was possible to write about an experience that is not entirely yours,” Asante explained. “I kept being offered TV stuff about middle class black women, and I felt I had something else to offer. What I’m interested in as a director is what connects us, not what separates us.”
Judging by the number of awards she has received — four Welsh Baftas, the new talent prize at the London Film Festival, and festival plaudits as far a field as Miami, San Sebastian and Mar del Plata — Asante has proved her case.
Asante, who started out as a teen actress in Brit kids soap “Grange Hill,” worked for several years as a TV writer and producer. But she had never directed so much as a short or a pop video when U.K. Film Council exec Paul Trijbits suggested she should helm her own “Way of Life” script.
Its searing subject matter seems at odds with Asante’s own worldly, glamorous image. She points out that she started as a sitcom writer, and says that she’s drawn to commercial as much as arthouse stories.
“When I did ‘Way of Life,’ people assumed I was this new social realist voice, but actually I did that film to show I could do something different,” she said. “I want to be the Madonna of film, to keep reinventing myself.”