London film festival to open with A United Kingdom

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Amma Asante follows Belle with period tale of interracial relationship starring Rosamund Pike and David Oyelowo

London film festival to open with A United Kingdom
European premiere … Rosamund Pike and David Oyelowo in A United Kingdom. Photograph: Handout

A United Kingdom, the story of the real-life relationship between an African king and the English office worker he married in 1947, has been selected as the opening film of the London international film festival.

Starring David Oyelowo as Seretse Khama, who in 1925 became king of Bechuanaland (then a British protectorate, now the republic of Botswana) aged four, and Rosamund Pike as Ruth Williams, the Londoner who married him despite considerable controversy at the highest political levels, both in apartheid South Africa and in the UK, A United Kingdom is directed by Amma Asante, the British director who won a string of awards for her previous film, Belle.

After their marriage, Khama and Williams were forced to live in exile in the UK, but were allowed to settle in Bechuanaland in 1956, after popular demand culminated in the sending of a telegram to the young Queen Elizabeth II. Khama gave up his royal status, and was elected the first president of an independent Botswana in 1966. The couple had four children, before Khama died in 1980 and his wife in 2002.

The film is billed as having a European premiere in London in October, implying it is likely to have its world premiere at Venice or Toronto film festivals months before.

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