In United Kingdom ***
by Amma Asante
British film, 2:10
Here is a page of history whose story, edifying, well deserved that we devote a film to it. We owe this achievement to the British Amma Asante, who had already signed A Way of Life in 2004 and Beautiful in 2013. His new feature film, In United Kingdom (literally “One United Kingdom”), evokes the true story of Seretse Khama and Ruth Williams.
A black prince and a white secretary
The first was black, crown prince of a territory located in the north of South Africa, Bechuanaland, placed under British protectorate since 1885, and which would become in 1966 independent Botswana. The second was white, the daughter of a middle-class London couple and a young legal secretary.
She would become the wife of the future king, against all odds: her parents, her husband’s family, the times. And above all the diplomatic services of the British Empire, which did not intend to anger neighboring South Africa, in the midst of the establishment of apartheid but whose uranium resources proved to be precious in the aftermath of the Second World War.
A singular couple who stood their ground against the British Empire
The director captures this singular episode – which made the heyday of the British press – by subtly balancing the ingredients of melodrama and historical drama against a backdrop of colonial domination and political struggle. The result is as seductive as it is captivating, as this courageous couple had so many pitfalls placed in their path.
Brilliant young man sent to Great Britain by his regent uncle, in order to receive there the best education, Seretse Khama was summoned to choose between this white woman and her kingdom. They held on, withstanding hatred and humiliation, maneuvers and betrayals, before their determination and righteousness imposed their strength. The future king was banished from his country while his wife gave birth to their first child there. After promising him the restoration of his rights, Winston Churchill tried to permanently exclude him from the game.
Nothing helped. Charismatic and intelligent leader, Seretse Khama took the Empire at his own game, renounced his status as monarch to better make his country a democracy, of which he became the first elected president and of which he managed, for the common good, the resources from diamond mines. So much so that Botswana was nicknamed the Switzerland of Africa. And that the great Nelson Mandela still referred to his leader, in 2000, twenty years after his death.