CITY PRESS REVIEW: When romance conquers racism

2016-12-18 06:01

Johannesburg - This film tells the true-life love story between independent Botswana’s first president, Seretse Khama, and his white British wife, Ruth Williams, at a time when the UK wanted to hold on to its protectorate of what was then called Bechuanaland, where apartheid South Africa’s racist policies were beginning to take hold.

David Oyelowo and Rosamund Pike are convincing as the loving, determined couple and audiences will become enveloped in their story, especially when they become defiant in the face of the highest political interference and resistance to their union.

My biggest gripe is Oyelowo’s accent and his obvious inability to speak even the most basic Setswana. I found this distracting.

The dearth of Setswana in the movie is also jarring. Clearly, it was made for an international audience, but adding the vernacular would have emphasised the context in which the story is based.

Still, it is a marvel of a film, which is to be expected from such a powerful story that changed the course of a country’s history.

Award-winning actor Vusi Kunene is great as the stoical uncle, Tshekedi Khama, and Terry Pheto shines as Seretse’s protective younger sister, Naledi.

The movie spans many years in a short time and as a result, many of the smaller subplots are not as well developed as they could have been.

Still, South Africans should see this film for various reasons: as a reminder of apartheid’s devastating effect on neighbouring countries – it almost derailed Botswana’s independence; as a romantic tale beautifully told; and as a historical epic.

Whatever the reason, you’ll love it.
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