This Tuesday at the Paris Theatre, Forevermark presented the New York premiere of Fox Searchlight’s A United Kingdom.
Directed by Amma Asante, the film depicts the true story of the forbidden love between King Seretse Khama of Botswana played by David Oyelowo and Ruth Williams played by Rosamund Pike, a white woman from London. In the late 1940s, their marriage created international discord as apartheid was being introduced into South Africa. Their union altered the course of African history.
Following the screening was a private celebration at Avra Madison Estiatorio where there was live music, cocktails and hors d’oeuvres. A United Kingdom opens in select theaters on February 10th 2017.
Check out our exclusive carpet interviews with the cast and crew:
Question: What made you decide to create a film about the true-life romance between Sir Seretse Khama and his wife Ruth Williams Khama; why their story?
Amma Asante: So David Oyelowo and I go back a long way, over 18 years. We first meet when I was writing and producing a Tv series for the BBC and I cast David for his first role out of drama school on Tv. Cut to 18 years later, we knew each other all along; we watched each other’s careers develop and he calls me one evening and says “Amma, I read this amazing book called ‘Colour Bar’ written by Susan Williams [the book that our film became an adaption of] and it’s about Seretse Khama and his wife Ruth Williams Khama, have you ever heard of them?” And I had never heard of them at all. I knew nothing of them. And he said “We have a script at the moment but we really need a director who can push this thing forward and finish what we need to put on the big screen. Would you be interested?” And I said “Send me some more material” and he sent me a photo essay of the couple and it was an incredible photo essay of them in Botswana and the UK. And the wonderful thing for me is that when I looked that these images particularly of Seretse, it reminded me of my dad. Imagines of my dad walking through the streets of London- his was a decade later in the late 50s early 60s- a dignified, educated black man. My father is from Ghana, the first sub saharan African nation to gain it’s independence and that’s the other side of the story. I’m the daughter of two parents who were raised in a colony, saw it become independent and I understood what that meant for people of a country to achieve its freedom, its liberty and its independence. So in all of that, I recognized a huge black element of the story that resonated with me but there’s no doubt also that this was a powerful love story. This is a story of a love that stood up to an empire, two continents, 3 governments, 3 countries and didn’t just stand up to it but triumphed over it. It’s a fascinating story.
Question: You started off as an actress. What made you to decide to switch roles in the industry as a director in charge?
Amma Asante: Being child actress, I wasn’t genuinely very good but I had a lot of good actors around me and they gave powerful performances. The Tv high school drama that I was in eventually ran for 25 years had a profound influence on its young audience so I suddenly understood the power of story. The power of the series I was in brought me to the White House at 16 years old because Nancy Reagan heard about our story and invited us over. I suddenly realized I crossed over continents through the power of a storyline and I wanted to do that- to be able to have an impact on people. I was creative but I wasn’t a good actor and I knew there were other ways I could be involved in the business that would touch people’s hearts and writing and directing was one of them.
Question: What attracted you be a part of this project?
Rosamund Pike: It’s a beautiful love story. I think it’s a true story about love, old-fashion committed love. And I think it just shows you when all you are trying to do is be together and maintain that love and be together in the process you can retrieve some truly extraordinary things and banish fear, prejudice and bigotry in the process.
Question: How was filming in Botswana?
Rosamund Pike: Unbelievable, because it’s where the story took place and if you’re treading in the shoes of a character in the soil where they spent their early married life and we were coming into the house where they first went when they arrived in Botswana which we didn’t think in a million years we’d find or it’d even still be there. It just gave such an amazing boom to the story. And of course the local people who were involved in the film were participating in their history being re enacted before them. It was an incredible thing to witness and be part of. I did feel like I was bearing witness to it as much as sort of living it.
Question: You guys met the current president and you were playing his parents in the movie. What was that like having him on set and meeting him?
David Oyelowo: We had a very special moment where Rosamund was in the middle of doing a scene and he turned up on set unannounced and flew his own helicopter by himself, landed it right next to the set and sat down right next to me right behind the monitor and started watching Rosamund play his mother and then turned to me and said “Never thought I’d see my parents again.” We literally watched him reliving his own history, as Rosamund previously mentioned through what we were doing. It was very special for us.
Rosamund Pike: And of course his existence is a reminder is what Seretse and Ruth’s love for each other achieved. They brought democracy to this country and there is their son, the 4th president.