Born in South Africa in 1950 as daughter to white anti-apartheid activists Joe Slovo and Ruth First, she grew up in London after the family in 1964 arrived in the UK as political refugees. In the late 1970s she served as Robert De Niro's personal assistant while he made the films 'Raging Bull' and 'The King of Comedy'.
Her first screenplay and first film, 'A World Apart,' directed by Chris Menges, won the Jury Prize, and the Ecumenical and Best Actress Awards at the 1987 Cannes Film Festival, and the 1988 BAFTA Best Original Screenplay Award.
She lives in northern London. Her sister Robyn Slovo is a successful film producer, and her sister Gillian Slovo is a novelist.