Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Movie: A United Kingdom

A United Kingdom:  the tale of a true romance.  This story begins in 1948.  The Prince and future king of Bechuanaland, current day Botswana, is studying in London.  The Prince, Seretse Khama (David Oyelowo), meets a British office worker, Ruth Williams (Rosamund Pike), at a dance sponsored by the Church of England.  They learn they have a mutual love of jazz and, from this initial conversation, their relationship grows into a romance and then into a marriage.  Placed against the backdrop of the late 1940’s/ 1950’s, the political consequences of this interracial marriage are significant.  There is an initial divisiveness within the Botswana tribal community to the interracial marriage.  South Africa is implementing apartheid.  The law in neighboring Botswana is the equivalent of America’s Jim Crow laws.  Although the initial story is about Seretse and Ruth’s courtship, the majority of this 111 minute film reaches far beyond.  It addresses the British government’s aggressive attempts to undo the marriage and, when that fails, to evict Seretse from Botswana.  It also shows the segregation that the people of Botswana were subjected to in their own country by outsiders.  The film is not kind to the British colonial system or to Winston Churchill.  The performance by David Oyelowo, presently one of film’s finest actors, is reason enough to see A United Kingdom.  Rosamund Pike also gives a strong performance.  The British colonialists are somewhat one dimensional, especially Tom Felton, but given the history of the region, the performances may be accurate.  Guy Hibbert’s screenplay involves and holds you as it moves beyond an interracial love story.  The source  material is Colour Bar by Susan Williams.  The film is directed by Amma Asante, who also directed Belle, another film with an interracial relationship at its core.  At the film’s closing, we see photos of the actual Seretse and Ruth.  We learn that they prevailed and that Seretse became President when Botswana won its independence in 1966.  As a footnote, Botswana has prospered as an independent country and the current president is Seretse and Ruth’s son.  This movie is both enjoyable and a learning experience.