David Oyelowo and Rosamund Pike look happy and so in love in this first look at A United Kingdom. Oyelowo plays Seretse Khama, the first president of Botswana and Pike plays Ruth Williams, his wife and the inaugural First Lady of Botswana. The two had met in England in 1947 and married in 1948, causing a great deal of outrage in the apartheid government of South Africa and the Bamangwato people (he was the son of the king). Conspiring between the British government and South Africa forced the interracial couple into exile for six years.
I was so struck by the level of challenge they faced simply for falling in love with each other that I became completely intoxicated with it. I also realized in reading the story I had never seen an African love story of this cinematic scope. It spoke to me as an African, as a man, as a romantic.
Oyelowo also discussed the ways the couple inspires him and how he hopes this film will celebrate their legacy:
Yes, I’m married to a white lady who I love deeply. We haven’t had the struggle they’ve had, but I feel so blessed that I live in an era where me being married to whom I’m married to isn’t illegal or frowned upon, literally, by nations in addition to individual people. Let’s not be naive. There are people out there who don’t love a black person and a white person being married, but it’s certainly not what Seretse and Ruth experienced. This film is a celebration of two people I deem so brave for doing what in my life, I’ve been able to take for granted.
They ended up reshaping their nation through their love. Botswana is a different country for the fact that these two people got married. It has a different relationship to race, partly because of them. That in and of itself is miraculous.
Oyelowo himself approached Pike for the role. The film also has Guy Hibbert as writer, the Khama family working closely on the development and writing, and Amma Asante as director. I thoroughly enjoyed Asante’s period drama Belle, which starred Gugu Mbatha-Raw as Dido Elizabeth Belle. It balanced the Zong massacre, the history of representations of race, the racism in Dido’s everyday life, and a great love story (my heart, that one tear!) incredibly well. I’m very excited to see her work with Oyelowo and Pike in another historical drama.
A United Kingdom has no official release date, but is aiming to come out in the fall.
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