A United Kingdom
Directed by Amma Asante, produced by Rick McCullum & Brunson Green.
International theatrical release 2016. Premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival and opened the London Film Festival.
⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ The Times ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ The Guardian ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ Hey U Guys
"A United Kingdom's key strength is the immense attention to detail in terms of its production design" Paul Heath, The Hollywood News
"The film looks remarkable, there's an indelible charm and striking aesthetic" Stefan Pape, Hey U Guys
"A United Kingdom is rich in detail and design" Simian Hans, Sight & Sound
"The production values, costume and set design remain immaculate in each location: Simon Bowles, Jenny Beavan and Rebecca Alleway are deserving of the praise their respective talents are most certainly due." Matthew Anderson, Cine Vue
"Production designer Simon Bowles clearly relishes the broad canvas opportunities of the narrative..." Mark Kermode, The Guardian
"Production designer Simon Bowles conveys a strong sense of time and place in both the London and Bechuanaland settings" Derrick Bang, The Davis Enterprise
Production Designer Simon Bowles and Set Decorator Rebecca Alleway were nominated in the category "Best Production Design in an Independant Feature Film" at the British Film Designers Guild Awards 2017.
Click on image below to play trailer.
David Oyelowo stars, playing yet another notable real-life human being in Seretse Khama - Botswana's first president from 1966-80 - with Rosamund Pike co-starring, playing Ruth Williams, the young white woman who would eventually become his wife, and the inaugural First Lady of Botswana.
The pair met in 1947 and eventually made headline news all over the world, after falling in love and getting married, while Seretse Khama was an heir to the chieftainship of the Bamangwato tribe in Botswama. The film focuses on their interracial love affair that was considered so scandalous at the time, so much that the couple had to spend six years in exile in London, banned from Khama’s own country because he married a white woman. The couple's son, Ian Khama, is currently president of Botswana.
The film was shot in Botswana and London, contrasting the post-war smog of Britain against the huge clear skies and red sand of their home in Botswana.
"Amma and Rosamund are two of the most exciting talents working in film today,” said Oyelowo in a previous statement. “I've worked with both of them before and so my excitement about them joining 'A United Kingdom' stems from a knowledge of just how inspiring they are to work with and how much daring and beauty they will bring to this epic love story."
Oyelowo is also serving as producer, alongside Rick McCallum, Brunson Green, Justin Moore Lewy and Charlie Mason.
The film is being made with the cooperation of the Khama family, which previously issued the following statement regarding the project: “We are pleased that the story of Sir Seretse Khama and Lady Khama is being brought to life in the film A United Kingdom by Pathe. Our family has been regularly involved in development of this film so far, having collaborated closely with the screenwriter Guy Hibbert in what we believe is a wonderful script. We are equally pleased that David Oyelowo will lead the cast as Seretse.”
Ruth's Bedroom studio set.
Late 1940s Dance Hall in London.
Seretse's University Common Room set.
The British Ambassador's Bedroom in South Africa, shot in London.
The Ambassador's Office in London.
Ruth's Legal Office in London.
Visual by Simon Bowles of London Art Deco Bar set.
Interior of BBC Radio Studio set.
Because of the subject matter we were granted permission to film inside the Houses of Parliament in London. The second time ever this was permitted.
The arrival of Ruth and Seretse to Botswana was shot using a working vintage plan from South Africa, repainted to match the films period.
Palapye Hotel set built on location in Botswana.
Train Station set built in Botswana alongside real tracks to run trains on.
The station was constructed as a real building for safety reasons as it was built alongside a live track. I used this opportunity to build and dress all the rooms inside when were then featured in the movie.
The interior of the Ambassadors Train carriage set.
The Kgotla at Serowe recreated in Botswana along with traditional mud and straw dwellings.
Stores set build on location in Botswana, complete with an interior.
The actual first home belonging to Ruth and Seretse in Botswana was carefully returned to it's original condition for the film.
SIMON BOWLES BIOG FOR "A UNITED KINGDOM"
Simon Bowles is a British production designer, who has worked with directors Oliver Parker, Roger Michell, Edgar Wright, James Watkins, Neil Marshall and most notably Amma Asante on Belle and A United Kingdom.
Simon Bowles first worked with writer/director Amma Asante in 2013 on her period feature Belle, set in 18th century Kenwood House, London. Bowles recreated the historical house using sets and locations resulting in an exceptionally stylish, true-to-period, backdrop for Assante’s groundbreaking movie. International reviews, such as Variety, celebrated his design as ‘handsome’, ‘exquisite’, ‘impeccable’ and ‘lavish’.
Simon Bowles was delighted to work again with Amma Asante on A United Kingdom, saying; “Amma has an amazing vision, focus and energy which this industry is hungry for. Every day was part of an spectacular journey. She is a creative and inspirational director to work with from the first draft through to the premiere”.
A United Kingdom is set in both Botswana and the UK, and as the characters swap between the countries a number of times, Bowles was eager to highlight the contrast between them. Early on in production he created a colour & texture palette reference pack that was used by all departments on the film. London focused on a range of colours from burgundy to emerald to navy blue but all muted. This represented the regrowth of Britain after the second world war drew to a close. Geometric patterns were also a strong part of the London visual concept in such details as the repeating patterns in the rectangular brickwork and cobblestones and the choice of locations, such as the circular lecture hall where Seretse addresses politicians and the spiral staircase in Seretse’s Mayfair apartment. The colours and geometric patterns were featured together further in Bowles choice of period wallpapers, graphics, furniture and fabrics.
The contrasting colours and textures in Botswana were organic and natural; the red sandy mud built into hundreds of traditional hut homes, sun bleached fence posts, the hand prints in the mud walls and walls painted with simple earthy colours. Bowles and his team employed local women to build authentic mud and straw huts recreating the village of Serowe as it appeared in the 1940s, mud huts were traditionally built by women.
Asante and Bowles wanted to film in as many of the actual places that Seretse and Ruth visited. The actual house they lived in on the outskirts of Serowe was in a terribly run down state in the middle of an industrial estate. Bowles rebuilt the home and reinstated many period interior details as seen in family and press photographs. So impeccable is this transformation that there are now plans to turn the rebuilt home into a museum celebrating the life and love of Seretse and Ruth Khama.