1 of 6
A United Kingdom
When A United Kingdom arrives in theaters on Feb. 10, it will bring the real-life love story between Sereste Khama and Ruth Williams to the big screen. Khama was heir to the throne of Botswana, and his relationship with Williams, a London office worker whom he married in the late 1940s, caused such outrage at the time that they were exiled from Botswana for six years.
“All of my films thus far have been a combination of politics and love, and I love the way that we can use love stories to explore politics as well,” director Amma Asante (Belle) told EW of the film, which stars Selma’s David Oyelowo and Gone Girl’s Rosamund Pike. “It’s such a powerful, powerful story of a love that stood up to everything including the hefty power of world politics.”
EW has a set of exclusive new photos from the film, including this one of Ruth and Sereste reuniting after what Asante called “a very difficult time in the couple’s story” — Sereste was tricked into traveling to the U.K. and then prevented from returning to his home country, while Ruth remained in Africa and gave birth to their daughter there. This moment is the first time Sereste sees their child, who was 4 months old at the time.
2 of 6
David Oyelowo as Seretse Khama
In this image, Sereste is preparing to give a radio address during his exile, asking the British people to implore their government to let him return home — a message that he knows will likely be heard in his home country, so he also asks his people to have faith and remain calm as he tries to get back to them.
“We are born of very similar worlds,” Asante said of working with Oyelowo, who also served as a producer on the film. “David’s raised by African parents, he was born in the U.K., he comes with the two continents that feature in this film, as I do. I was raised by those continents, so we have that in common — born of African parents and raised in the U.K., as well as Africa — and we always sort of united on that common ground and understanding of how important it was to put a man on screen that we could both be proud of. “
3 of 6
David Oyelowo and Arnold Oceng
Sereste and his best friend Charles (Arnold Oceng) attend a missionary dance where he first meets Ruth. “This is very much a true moment in the real story of the couple — they met at a missionary dance that her sister brought her to,” Asante shares. Here at the party, Ruth is listening to Sereste and Charles discuss an English band at the party playing jazz…badly. “One of the things that united the couple, a common interest, was the fact that they both love jazz. So this first conversation that he has with his friend about jazz allows her to have the guts to speak to him for the first time.”
4 of 6
Rosamund Pike and David Oyelowo
From that conversation on jazz to…the couple’s first date at a jitterbug dance hall. “At this point in time that kind of dancing is very dating, it’s very courageous dancing – the waltz was the thing,” she says. “So it’s a kind of underground, cool, dance hall that he’s brought her to and the two have figuratively let their hair down.” After a good old dance (shot in an original 1940s dance hall), the pair are now sitting down and getting to know one another — and Ruth has no idea she's getting to know a king.
5 of 6
Ruth, having given birth to their daughter while her husband is exiled in Britain, looks out the window here as the women of Sereste’s village come to bring her gifts and offer her their support. “It’s the first time we really see there’s some acceptance in our film coming from them towards her — she has to work hard for their acceptance,” Asante said.
“It was very clear that Ruth really resonated with [Pike] deeply,” the director added. “I love the quiet dignity that many of the actresses I’ve worked with bring to the screen — Gugu Mbatha-Raw in Belle; Terry Pheto, who plays who plays Naledi Khama, Serete’s sister in this — and Rosamund Pike comes with this kind of quiet but very definite presence that doesn't allow you to look away from the screen.”
6 of 6
Director Amma Asante on Set
“We were so happy we had the opportunity to shoot in Botswana, the actual country where all this took place,” she said, adding, “I’m really grateful to the people of Botswana and as I say in all interviews, I hope we did this extraordinary story of their country proud, and them proud.”
(A United Kingdom opens Feb. 10. You can watch the film’s trailer here.)