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The real family behind 'A United Kingdom' movie part 2

NEW GENERATION: Marcus and Julie ter Haar with their two children at home in Botswana

GRANDSON OF celebrated Botswanan royal couple Seretse and Ruth Khama, whose journey to freedom during the 'glory' days of the British Empire was charted most recently by the movie 'A United Kingdom' (now out on DVD and Blu-Ray); Marcus ter Haar continues his interview with The Voice below:

Sharing his fondness for family life in Botswana, ter Haar explains how his daughters are starting to connect with the significance of the Khama history:

"My children are nine and six and they go to the primary school that I attended when I was their age.

"I think my daughter Saman who is the oldest, is beginning to absorb some sort of understanding about their legacy.

"The film is probably still a bit too sophisticated for a girl of nine years old, but because they are growing up in a multi-racial and multi-cultural society they do not have a sense of a divided society like my grandparents did.

"We don't try to force the story on the kids, because I don't necessarily think they should grow up feeling different from anyone else so through organic conversation and observing through their own questioning and their own enquiries, they collect information. That’s exactly how I was bought up and I think that’s the right way to do it."


AMBASSADOR: Marcus ter Haar speaking on behalf of a charity set-up in his grandmother's name (photo credit: Boingotlo Seitshiro)

Living in a vastly different cultural and social climate than that of Seretse and Ruth Khama, ter Haar and his wife Julie can only draw a few similarities between their marriage and that of the elder Khamas:

"Maybe the one parallel between Julie and I and my grandparents is that I made it pretty clear upfront that I saw my future in Botswana and that was the expectation that I set. When my oldest daughter was a few months old we felt it was a good time to move as it's great for young children, there is low crime, it's wholesome, outdoorsy, warm and there are good schools.

"It's not easy for anyone to leave their place of birth and go and live somewhere else. It takes some adjusting to. She had no friends at first and wasn’t really familiar with the lifestyle. It took us a good year and a half, now we have a great group of friends and we see Julie’s family twice a year at least; plus we have family here on my side."

Pondering his own contribution to the family's collective achievements, ter Haar offers:

"I don’t think anyone could make the impression my grandfather did. His actions in his youth were so avant garde, brave and progressive for his time, I don’t know how anyone else in the family could match that impact today. That kind of influence comes less than once a generation.

"My brother and I are on the board of the family trust, we do charity work, raising money for vulnerable women and children, which is something my grandmother Lady Khama was passionate about. We have uncles in politics.

"We all have a passion for Botswana and out of a sense of duty we do our best to strengthen the country and its people from our respective positions.

"What my grandfather did is set in stone for generations to come."

When asked the inevitable - 'were you happy with how the film captured your grandparents' story?', ter Haar is complimentary:

"Everyone from the director to those behind the scenes, did a really good job of making the essence of the story true to the original. The events which took place are manifold, so the amount of travelling between London and Botswana and some of the layers of politics couldn’t be shared in the film because of the complexity of the story - they are picked-up in the book, however.


MUST-WATCH: From left - Rosamund Pike and David Oyelowo as Ruth and Seretse Khama. A United Kingdom is out on DVD and Blu-Ray now

"When they were filming in Botswana I took the family onto the set and just before one of the scenes were being shot I went on set to say goodbye to Rosamund Pike (Pike played Ruth Khama in A United Kingdom) and it almost felt as if I were saying goodbye to my grandmother. She was in character and for me it was a very good portrayal of who she was.

"My grandmother was a very proud and strong, resilient woman - forceful, domineering, persistent.

"We saw the film first in Botswana, and we were pleased with the outcome and feel that it's a project we can stand behind and that does our grandparents justice.

"Actors always bring their own nuances to a role, there is a degree of interpretation you have to make, which will always influence your work, they all would have bought their own slight twist on the character...

"I can't say I took it all in straightaway...you’re in a slight daze because the your family is being portrayed on film. It's a powerful and unique experience.

"Everyone was really pleasantly suprised, there were a lot of tears in the screening - from the ladies, obviously less so from the men! Being in awe, it was only through subsequent screenings that you absorb the story a little bit more.

"My mother is Jacqueline, who you see as a baby and young girl in the film. She had the privilege of seeing the film by herself, she was the only person in the cinema. She watched it a few weeks later than the rest of us because she was out of town for a wedding. She specifically wanted to watch it by herself. She was very pleased with the outcome."

A United Kingdom is out now on DVD and Blu-Ray, whilst The Colour Bar by A. Susan Williams is on sale now from all good book retailers.

To read part 1 of this interview, click here.

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