Film’s mes­sage to trump them all

Central Otago Mirror - - CONVERSATIONS -

Over the years, I’ve met many cou­ples where one is a Kiwi and one is from overseas. This is not un­usual in Queen­stown. It is a town of many na­tion­al­i­ties. At some stage the cou­ple have to make the de­ci­sion of where to live in the long term. Inevitably one per­son must give up liv­ing in their home coun­try and the chance to see fam­ily and friends on a reg­u­lar ba­sis. It’s not al­ways easy.

Back in 1947, Seretse Khama, a black African man and Ruth Wil­liams, a white Lon­don of­fice worker, faced a sim­i­lar dilemma. In 1947, mo­bile phones, Face­book, Skype and other forms of mod­ern com­mu­ni­ca­tion didn’t ex­ist. If you made the call to marry some­one from another coun­try and move, it was a huge sac­ri­fice. To keep in touch with fam­ily, the best you could hope for was to post letters and per­haps have the oc­ca­sional trip back home.

Last week, a friend and I saw the film ‘‘A United King­dom’’ at Dorothy Brown’s. It chron­i­cles the lives of Seretse Khama and Ruth Wil­liams. We were en­thralled.

Of course there was much more to the story of Seretse and Ruth than the dilemma of whether to live in Queen­stown or else­where. Seretse Khama was roy­alty, the heir ap­par­ent of Bechua­na­land; the coun­try now known as Botswana. Seretse was ex­pected to marry a lo­cal girl when he re­turned home. In 1947 while liv­ing and study­ing in Lon­don, he met Ruth at a Mis­sion­ary So­ci­ety dance. They fell in love and later mar­ried. Ruth was fired from her job and her fa­ther dis­owned her. Seretse’s fam­ily thor­oughly dis­ap­proved.

It was a huge scan­dal in both Seretse’s coun­try and in Bri­tain. Both gov­ern­ments were hor­ri­fied by the mar­riage. Nei­ther gov­ern­ment wanted to up­set South Africa, where the apartheid pol­icy had been in­tro­duced. In that con­text, a mixed race mar­riage was un­think­able. The cou­ple ig­nored those who stood in their way and car­ried on. Their courage was un­fail­ing.

It is a great film. The act­ing, cin­e­matog­ra­phy, set de­sign, and cos­tumes are flaw­less. The lead roles are played by David Oyelowo and Rosamund Pike. Both are su­perb and give strong per­for­mances, as do the sup­port­ing cast.

The most mem­o­rable thing about the film is its mes­sage. It is a story about be­ing united. At a per­sonal level, it is about the union of Ser­este and Ruth, their mar­riage, their chil­dren and their love. But it is also the story of unit­ing your peo­ple and your coun­try. It is a story of what hope and de­ter­mi­na­tion can achieve. It’s a tale of tri­umph over in­tol­er­ance. Seretse Khama was a man who knew that truly suc­cess­ful lead­ers take their peo­ple with them on the road to forge a brighter fu­ture. Seretse and Ruth changed their world for the bet­ter. Botswana is now one of Africa’s most peace­ful and pros­per­ous na­tions as a re­sult of their work.

If there is a date night in the White House, Don­ald and Me­la­nia Trump should watch this film.

❚ Queen­stown’s Sin­gle Girl is look­ing for true love. Email mir­

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