It has to be the greatest love story to come out of Botswana and one of the greatest in the history of the world. Set against the period when racial discrimination was perhaps at its peak, Seretse and Ruth Khama’s interracial love shook the British Empire and threatened to divide the then Bechuanaland Protectorate (Botswana).
Now their story is being brought back to life in ‘A United Kingdom’. From the producer of ‘The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles’ and ‘Star Wars’ trilogy , Rick McCullum, and the Director of ‘A Way of Life’ and ‘Belle’ ,Amma Asante, comes this story of determination, courage, honour and justice. The lead roles will be played by Britain’s David Oyelowo (Selma, The Butler, Captive, and Number One Ladies Detective) and Rosamund Pike (Gone Girl, Die Another Day, Jack Reacher) as Seretse and Ruth respectively. “We are hoping the release of the film will coincide with the country (Botswana)’s 50 anniversary celebrations next year (2016),” producer, McCallum told reporters at New Capitol Cinemas (Game City) on Thursday.
He said the shooting will commence here in Botswana on October 10 before moving on to Britain four weeks later. McCallum could not be drawn into discussing the budget for the movie suffice it to say it is a small budget production. “We have met the Khama family and they have been very supportive of the project,” the Star Wars producer said.
Seretse and Ruth had four children in President Ian Khama, and his siblings Tshekedi, Anthony, and Jaqueline. Director, Asante, said although they could have chosen to shoot the film anywhere else in Africa they thought it would only be fitting to shoot in Seretse’s own home soil and cast as many Batswana as possible.
She said she was also all about empowering other black women film makers. “I come from a very small community of black female film makers,” she said. “We need to continue to grow and develop more and more females in the industry.” She described the story (Seretse & Ruth) as a story of love and courage against all odds.
She said it had taken a few years before the movie could finally be made.
Local Fixer, Arthur January, said the shooting of the film presents a great opportunity for Botswana. “This film will put our country on the world stage as far as the film industry is concerned,” January. In 1947 Seretse Khama was the heir to the Bangwato Chieftainship when he took off for Britain to study law. It was while studying in London that he met and fell in love with Ruth Williams, an office girl. With the racist apartheid regime calling the shots back home in neighbouring South Africa, the timing of their relationship could not have been worse.
“A United Kingdom is one of the greatest love stories in history, set against the end of Empire and the birth of African Independence and at a time when it was unthinkable for any black man to marry a white woman,” says the film synopsis. Both the British government and Seretse’s uncle, Bangwato chief Tshekedi Khama, opposed the marriage on the need for racial purity-but their love was unshakable. They married in defiance of the political world that sort to destroy it.
“After the marriage in London, Seretse and Ruth travelled to Bechuanaland. Seretse’s inspirational address to seven thousand members of his people convinced them that Ruth would be acceptable to them as queen. Tshekedi was deposed by the people. Seretse became their King; Ruth, their queen. Unable to break the marriage, Attlee’s government exiled Seretse from his Kingdom for five years. Churchill’s government won the next election and turned the five year exile into life. Seretse and Ruth stayed defiantly in love and their cause became the rallying call of the emerging anti-apartheid and anti-colonial movement in Britain. Finally Churchill realised that their love was irresistible and ended the exile. Seretse renounced his kingship and set his country on the path of democratic elections.
On Independence Day in 1966, Seretse became the first president of the new country of Botswana and Ruth became the country’s First Lady. Together they transformed Botswana from the poorest country in Africa to being the most peaceful and prosperous. This is a story about love that simply refused to die – a love that is said to have changed the world,” synopsis.
Local auditions for the film would take place in Serowe at the Lady Khama Community Hall on Saturday, September 19th, and Palapye at the Palapye Community Hall today, September 20th. Gaborone auditions would be held the following weekend at a venue to be announced. There will be 40 locals forming part of the crew. South Africans Vusi Kunene and Terry Pheto (Tsotsi) are expected to play part in the film.