“A United Kingdom” films the forgotten political struggle of the king of Botswana

British director Amma Asante brings to life the forgotten political struggle of Botswana’s young king Seretse Khama and his white bride in the film ‘A United Kingdom’, in theaters Wednesday, starring David Oyelowo and Rosamund Pike.

David Oyelowo (“Selma”, “The Butler”) plays Seretse Khama, a young king of Bechuanaland (current Botswana) after the Second World War, who falls madly in love with Ruth Williams, a London typist camped by Rosamund Pike (“Gone Girl “, “Pride and Prejudice”). While his country is under the protectorate of the British Empire, he decides to marry the young Englishwoman.

Beyond the romance and the simple scandal linked to mixed marriage, it is a real story of political struggle that the director of Ghanaian origin (“Belle”, “A Way of Life”) gives us: the Khama couple has existed well and their union led to the independence of the country.

The story is unknown to the general Western public. But not only: on the spot for the filming, the director met “many Batswana who did not know his story either, although the current president is the son of Seretse”.

If it is somewhat difficult to hang on to the love story – too quickly set up in the first minutes and with a fairly common description – the film develops great finesse in the political analysis.

It ingeniously shows the role of South Africa, an economic giant in the midst of apartheid, which cannot bear to be challenged by one of its direct neighbours.

Far from a Manichaean vision, Amma Asante wanted to “show the real complexity of the political situation in which the British government found itself”: “British politicians whose actions may have appeared fundamentally racist” were acting to “serve the national interest” .

After the “Oscar So White” controversy, the film gives pride of place to diversity. The English director, daughter of Ghanaian immigrants, found it important to “tell African stories from the point of view of African characters”, even if she concedes that the film tells “an English story as much as an African one”.

As for David Oyelowo, British actor of Nigerian origin, “proud to be African and passionate about finding African stories to bring to the screen”, he is very convincing in one of the two main roles.

After six difficult years to launch production, filming took place in Botswana, “where the events had taken place”, on the outskirts of the towns of Serowe and Palapye.

The film is adapted from the book “Colour Bar” by Susan Williams, director of the Commonwealth Research Institute in London.

The film will be released in Belgium on April 19, 2017.

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