“A United Kingdom” Very Good Viewing

The tenacity he had to hang on to a white wife; to say, she’s who I’m in love with – if you want me, you have to have her.  Director, Amma Asante

Avoiding the perils of making historical films

By Roger Childs

Movies about historical figures and events can been disastrous, as directors often can’t resist taking liberties with the truth. Elizabeth is a case in point where there were at least a dozen factual errors, including making a leading character a Catholic when he was actually a Protestant!

A United Kingdom is based around the future leader of Botswana (Bechuanaland), Seretse Kharma, and his battle to have his marriage to English woman Ruth Williams accepted, so that he could assume leadership of the former British colony.

Obviously there is licence taken over the conversations that take place, however the story is well told and sticks to the basic historical facts. The result is a very watchable film, part love story, part political intrigue: four and a half stars.

The problems of the colour bar

Seretse Kharma, the man born to be king, had gone to Oxford in the late 1940s to study law. While in England he fell in love with office girl Ruth Williams and, against the wishes of both their families, they married.

This mixed marriage caused consternation, not only amongst their relations but at the highest levels of government in Britain and South Africa. There was pressure on Seretse to divorce Ruth, but in the end love conquered all.

The film is about the lengthy battle of the Kharmas to gain acceptance of their union and to have Bechuanaland declared an independent country. The unfolding developments are highly complex and involve lying and duplicity, cover up and betrayal, exile and separation, investigative journalism and, ultimately, political triumph.

A well told movie which is easy on the eye

Ghanaian director, Amma Asante, provides a coherent and satisfying movie, without sacrificing the intricate detail of the diplomacy and politicking.

A key factor in the film’s success is Guy Hibbert’s excellent screenplay which cleverly interweaves the characters’ verbal interactions with actual newspaper headlines and film clips from the time.

Lead actors David Oyelowo and Rosamund Pike are impressive in the title roles, and the rest of the cast, especially those playing the superior and pompous English politicians, diplomats and their wives, are very convincing.

Cinematographer, Sam McCurdy, does great work contrasting dreary 1940s London complete with pea souper fogs, with the wide open spaces and blue skies of Botswana.

This is a very watchable film which does justice to the realities of the abiding love and complex politics which ultimately ushered in the political independence and economic success of Botswana. Go see!