Director Amma Asante (“Belle”), British filmmaker of Ghanaian ancestry has masterfully crafted a dramatic, true love story around a political quest for autonomy; 1947, London, heir apparent to the Bechuanaland (present day Botswana) protectorate, Seneste Khama (polished performance by David Oyelowo), his studies complete, meets and plummets precipitously in love with typist Ruth Williams (enchanting portrayal by Rosamund Pike) whose blind passion for Seneste is without question, impregnable; undaunted by the odds and horrific vitriolic treatment by family and press, they wed and venture into the sun-ravaged, destitute country, where because of her “whiteness”, his kingship is disputed by his uncle Tshekedi Khama (commanding, Vusi Kunena). Seneste, leaving a pregnant Ruth returns to London, vying for his birthright as king; he is banished from Bechuanaland for five years; Sir Allister Canning (sensational, sophisticated, slimy depiction by Jack Davenport) thwarts Khama’s every option; even paradigmatic politician Winston Churchill ignominiously breaks his vow to allow Khama’s return to his country, wife and daughter. Britain’s haughty imperialism transcended the rights of the indigenous population; this warped logic prevailed until 1966 when Botswana attained independence.
Filmed in London and Botswana, contrasting the cold, crowded streets, sheathed in obfuscating fog, with the brutal, blinding, merciless intensity of an unforgiving sun. Today’s Botswana dares the tourist to accept its tempestuous, taunting landscape, alluring sensuous rhythm of the Okavango Delta, and uninhibited honesty of its people.
Oyelowo and Pike’s performances soar with momentous dignity, never sinking to syrupy sentimentality; exhibiting the remarkable intensity of Seneste and Ruth’s devotion, never dulled by others opinions, reaffirming that, regardless of one’s hue, all hearts are pulsating, vibrantly red organs, capable of generating intangible, overwhelming, fathomless love.