The Film That Should Be on the Industry’s Radar

EditorsFeb 13, 2017

The Film That Should Be on the Industry’s Radar

Out in select theaters Friday, “A United Kingdom” tells the story of Botswana’s road to independence.

Rosamund Pike, Madison Manowe and David Oyelowo as Ruth Williams, baby Jacqueline and Seretse Khama in “A United Kingdom,” a true telling of the events that led to Botswana’s independence in 1966. (Photo by Stanislav Honzik. © 2016 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation, All Rights Reserved)

I’d like to start out this blog post by saying that the following is not meant to be a movie review because I am not a movie reviewer. I don’t have any experience in the genre and don’t fancy myself an expert on acting, directing, cinematography or costumes.

So please take what follows as a public service announcement, an FYI if you will; here is a movie that just came out that I enjoyed and that I think people in the jewelry industry should see, if only to better understand the history behind one of the world’s biggest diamond producers.

A few weeks ago, thanks to the Diamond Empowerment Fund, Signet, the GIA and Fox Searchlight Pictures, I attended a special screening of a movie called “A United Kingdom” here in New York.

Shot in London and Africa, “A United Kingdom” tells the true story of how Botswana earned its independence and became a democracy in 1966. The film touches--albeit lightly--on the role diamonds played in that.

The movie stars David Oyelowo (Martin Luther King Jr. in “Selma”) as Seretse Khama and Rosamund Pike (nominated for an Oscar for her turn in “Gone Girl”) as Ruth Williams.

The film starts out in post-World War II London, where the black Khama meets the white Williams. They fall in love and get married but, predictably for the time period, nobody is happy about it.

The mixed-race marriage stirs up both familial and political strife.

Khama, you see, was heir to the throne of one of most powerful tribes in the country, at that time a British protectorate called Bechuanaland.

It also happened to be the British protectorate that sat atop South Africa, which at the time was on the brink of instituting the racist apartheid-era policies that would govern it for the next 50 years.

British officials did not want the Khama-Williams relationship to anger the ruling party in South Africa and endanger its access to the country’s natural resources--gold, diamonds and uranium--at a time when the government was reeling financially from the war.

So they conspired to keep the two apart, even exiling Khama for a period of time.

But in the end, it didn’t work.

Khama strategically engineered his return to his homeland--using inside knowledge of a potential diamond find in his homeland as one of his key bargaining chips--was reunited with his wife (and first child, by that point) and began to push for independence.

In 1964, he

succeeded and became the first democratically elected president of the new nation known as Botswana.

Director Amma Asante on set in Botswana. Asante also directed “Belle,” the 2013 movie based on the life of Dido Elizabeth Bell. (Photo by Stanislav Honzik. © 2016 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation, All Rights Reserved)
At the DEF screening for “A United Kingdom,” which was held at the Roxy Hotel Cinema in downtown Manhattan, we got a chance to hear from one man who has a very personal connection to the individual portrayed in the film.

DEF board member Marcus ter Haar is the grandson of Khama and Williams. His mother, Jacqueline, was their first child and is the baby in the movie.

You can hear from Marcus yourself, and see a trailer for “A United Kingdom” on DEF’s website.

For those who prefer books to movies, there’s “Colour Bar,” the nonfiction book by Susan Williams on which the screenplay was based.

Directed by Amma Asante (“Belle”), “A United Kingdom” opened in select cities Friday. A list of theaters showing the movie is available on the film’s website.

And if you want to read a review of “A United Kingdom” written by a journalist who has experience in the genre, you can check out the one by Rolling Stones’ Peter Travers (Spoiler alert: he gave it 3 1/2 out of 4 stars.) And there’s also Glenn Kenny for The New York Times, which tagged the film as an NYT Critics’ Pick.
Michelle Graffis the editor-in-chief at National Jeweler, directing the publication’s coverage both online and in print.

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