I attended the Cape Town Premiere of A United Kingdom last night at the Nu-Metro cinema in Century City. Terry Pheto who stars in the film as Naledi Khama was in attendance. It was an intimate affair and an overall good evening.
A United Kingdom is based on extraordinary true events.
In 1947, Seretse Khama, the King of Botswana, met Ruth Williams, a London office worker. The attraction was immediate: she was captivated by his vision for a better world, he was struck by her willingness to embrace it.
Both felt liberated by the social upheaval that followed the war – Seretse sensed the opportunity for change as the Empire weakened, Ruth saw the possibility for a “bigger life” as women pushed for independence and equality.
They were a perfect match, yet their proposed marriage was challenged not only by their families but by the British and South African governments. The latter had recently introduced the policy of apartheid and found the notion of a biracial couple ruling a neighbouring country intolerable. South Africa threatened the British: either thwart the couple or be denied access to South African uranium (vital for the British nuclear program) and gold (vital to replenish reserves following the war) and face the risk of South Africa invading Botswana.
Despite the terrible pressures they faced, Seretse and Ruth never wavered – they fought for their love every step of the way, and in so doing changed their nation and inspired the world.
The idea for A United Kingdom first came into being in 2010, when actor David Oyelowo was working on the film 96 Minutes. Its producers, Justin Moore-Lewy and Charlie Mason, had bought the rights to Susan Williams’ s book Colour Bar, which detailed the remarkable story of Seretse Khama and Ruth Williams.
“I remember very clearly Justin approaching me on set with the book, and handing it to me,” says Oyelowo. “I was so arrested by the image of the cover photo of Seretse and Ruth, looking very glamorous and happy. I knew nothing of them. I had no idea he was an African prince.
“But I read the book and was just intoxicated by the power their love had over political
Their love was such a potent thing. It wasn’t like Ruth had grown up in some political family and always had this conviction about racism. So it was very clear to me that their love was very pure and diamond-like; it was able to cut through all this prejudice they faced, having got married.
“So when I first came upon this story, I became obsessed with the idea of it becoming a film. I’m a proud African, and an avid excavator of African stories that could be told on film.”
Leading cast members; David Oyelowo, Rosamund Pike, Arnold Oceng, Vusi Kunene and Abena Ayivor. Directed by Amma Asante.
The film releases nationwide and in Botswana on the 09th December 2016.