Director Amma Asante has become adept at telling love stories featuring interracial protagonists, but that’s just the surface. As was proven in Belle, and repeated with her most recent film A United Kingdom, she has shown a willingness to explore the greater sociopolitical context in a thorough manner. The British filmmaker recently told reporters that understanding the contemporary politics in a love story is essential to understanding the nature of the love itself.
“When I came onto the project there were a lot of discussions about how should there be balance between the politics and the love story,” said Asante. “It was the belief of everybody to focus on the love story and that should be the overwhelming drive of the film. And my belief was somewhat different. Which is, you really understand the power of the love is if you understand what they stood up to. You should really be clear about the three continents. You should really be clear. Why gold? Why uranium? The context of South Africa. But, also, where Britain was. This was right after the war. Britain was pulling itself up by the bootstraps. It was poor. It wasn’t just poor, it was po’. There was rationing. Britain had just given an ultimatum to (Clement) Attlee, the Prime Minister at the time, to take care of it and to take care of its future. He had that mandate of responsibility. He had South Africa pressing in on him, the Cold War was unfolding, cheap uranium was essential for the atomic bomb program, cheap gold was really important to underlay the British economy, and on the other hand he’s got this couple who have fallen in love.
“It seems whimsical on the surface, this couple who has fallen in love, but when you really scrape all the layers back you see there were a number of imperatives,” she continued. “You’re going to separate a man from his people, from his country, from his identity? You’re going to say two people can’t be together on the same soil because of the color of their skin? So, unless you understand the stakes on both sides you cannot understand the love.”
“Also, globally. The U.S. was putting all this pressure on Britain, but look how they were treating their people of color? You have to understand how politics work and how being hypocritical could work.”
A United Kingdom, starring David Oyelowo and Rosamund Pike, opened in theaters earlier this month to mostly positive reviews and tells the astonishing story of Prince Seretse Khama of Botswana, who shocks the world when he marries a white woman from London after World War II.