In prison, amid dreams of the glamour "outside", a transsexual Maori is harassed by a homophobic prison guard.
Bella is the story of a transsexual man - incarcerated by prison and by the walls of a New Zealand minimum security prison - making a courageous stand against oppression.
In the brutal environment of a male prison, Bella Te Tomo is paradoxically, and resolutely, a woman.
Bella is the prison tattooist. Her resourcefulness in creating the contraband tools of her trade guarantees her acceptance by the other prisoners. That resourcefulness, aggravated by her determination to act and look like a woman, makes her the target for prison officer Goff.
Bella's appearance and manner, pointedly different from that of the other prisoners, affect Goff on an almost subconciouse sexual level. His confused response is to try and dismantle all that she is. He repeatedly takes away her make-up, confiscates the tattooing equipment, denies her privileges and tries to have her transfered to maximum security. Still Goff can't make sense of his own feelings - so he tries to destroy Bella.
Finally, Bella irrefutably lays claim to all that she is - ultimately destroying Goff.