MOVIE star Gugu Mbatha-Raw returned to her home town for a special screening of her new film Belle.

The 30-year-old said it was “really special” to meet old friends, teachers and family members for the event at Witney’s Cineworld cinema on Saturday, in aid of the Variety Club charity.

Fresh from a star-studded premiere at London’s BFI Southbank cinema, Miss Mbatha-Raw, said: “It’s very surreal, but it’s really lovely.

“Coming from Witney, to have Belle at Witney Cineworld is really, really special, because my old drama teacher is here and some of my old school friends.

“My ballet teacher is here too and it brings it all back down to earth to have the film here in Witney.”

Oxford Mail:

  • Gugu Mbatha-Raw with her former teacher Caroline Organ-Jennings, left, and her daughter Eleonore, 16

The Witney-born actress plays the title role in the period drama Belle, which was inspired by the true story of Dido Elizabeth Belle. She was a mixed-race woman who was raised in an aristocratic family in England in the 18th century.

Miss Mbatha-Raw, who went to Henry Box School, and was a member of local acting group Dramascope. In 2001 she won a scholarship to the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA) in London.

Some scenes for Belle were filmed in Oxford outside the Sheldonian Theatre and at Christ Church.

Miss Mbatha-Raw said: “It has been such a long journey and for me. I have been acting for such a long time now.

“I’m always excited to have these moments to celebrate something.

“It’s a quintessentially English story, so for me it is really, really lovely to be able to share it with everyone at home.”

Oxford Mail:

  • Gugu Mbatha-Raw poses for photographs and signs autographs for film fans before the screening

Her mother Anne Raw, a retired nurse who still lives in Witney attended the premieres of Belle in New York, Toronto and London, but was looking forward to a quiet dinner with her daughter after the Witney screening.

She said: “It’s fantastic and I’m very proud. I have always had a lot of confidence in her. She has always been very ambitious.”

Miss Mbatha-Raw got a hug from Henry Box School teacher Caroline Organ-Jennings, 52, who taught the actress when she was in year seven. Her daughter Eleonore, 16, now goes to the same drama school that helped propel Miss Mbatha-Raw into stardom.

Mrs Organ-Jennings said: “She was a great student. She was lovely, very talented and very hardworking. The whole school is very proud and constantly follows her progress whenever she’s in the news.”

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