Following Suffragette last year and The Imitation Game in 2014, the European premiere of Amma Asante’s A United Kingdom, starring David Oyelowo and Rosamund Pike, will open the 60th BFI London Film Festival in October, organizers said Tuesday.
Continuing the fest’s recent tradition of putting the spotlight on less-celebrated contemporary history on its opening night, the gala will screen the film that tells the true story of Seretse Khama, King of Bechuanaland, a former English colony in Africa that would become Botswana, and Ruth Williams, the London office worker he married in 1947 in the face of fierce opposition from their families and the British and South African governments.
With Oyelowo, Pike and Asante, among others, expected on the red carpet, United Kingdom will open the fest on Oct. 5 at the Odeon Leicester Square cinema. There will be a live cinecast from the London event and simultaneous screenings at theaters across the U.K.
Directed by Asante (Belle) from a screenplay by Guy Hibbert (Eye in the Sky), the film is based on the book Colour Bar by Susan Williams. The cast, led by Oyelowo (Selma) as Khama and Pike (Gone Girl) as Williams, also includes Jack Davenport (Pirates of the Caribbean), Terry Pheto (Mandela), Tom Felton (Harry Potter), Arnold Oceng (Adulthood), Jack Lowden (’71) and Laura Carmichael (Downton Abbey).
“Amma Asante’s A United Kingdom is testament to a defiant and enduring love story that also reveals a complex, painful chapter in British history,” said Clare Stewart, director of the BFI London Film Festival. “We are proud to be opening the 60th BFI London Film Festival with a film of such contemporary relevance, one that celebrates the triumph of love and intelligence over intolerance and oppression, and that confirms Asante as a distinctive and important British filmmaker.”
Said Asante: “The festival means a lot to me personally, having showcased my very first film, A Way of Life, here and been honored with the U.K. Film Talent Award. I’m a proud Londoner and in A United Kingdom we’ve been able to film in some of the most beautiful parts of the city as well as in the wonderful landscapes of Botswana.”
The pic was produced by Rick McCallum (Star Wars), Oyelowo, Justin Moore-Lewy, Brunson Green (The Help) and Charlie Mason, and executive produced by Pathe’s Cameron McCracken, BBC Films’ Christine Langan, the BFI’s Ben Roberts, Ingenious Media’s Eleanor Clark Windo and Guy Hibbert. Pathe will distribute United Kingdom in the U.K. and France and is handling sales throughout the rest of the world. At the Berlin Film Market this year, the movie sold to multiple territories.
The 60th BFI London Film Festival, in partnership with American Express, is set to run Oct. 5-16. The full lineup will be unveiled Sept. 1.