23 May 2017

”A United Kingdom"

This film is based on the true life romance between a young coloured man, Seretse Khama, who was studying in Britain after the war, and an English office worker, Ruth Williams. This in itself marked them out for attention in the late 40s, but when it transpired that the young man was in fact the heir to the African kingdom of Bechuanaland (now Botswana) it wasn't just their families and the local racists that they needed to worry about. The British Government effectively forbade the marriage, being under pressure from South Africa, which was at that time entering the apartheid regime. They married anyway and there followed a struggle against the full force of the British Government and the cultural expectations of Seretse's people in Bechuanaland.

The film was shot in the UK and Botswana with the African scenes being beautifully captured. David Oyelowo and Rosamund Pike are superb as the prince and the quintessential English woman, while the story, which seems to be one of those forgotten episodes in history, exposes the machinations of government and the duplicity of politicians when faced with protecting interests that arguably weren't worth protecting. Alongside the struggle with the British Government was the job of convincing Seretse's people that they should accept him as their king, and his wife as their queen. Ruth meanwhile found herself unloved by the native people while at the same time almost ostracised by the white British contingent in the country. But their devotion to each other and conviction to their beliefs eventually triumphed.