Akiedah Mohamed Reviews White Wedding

The preview of White Wedding at Atlas studios in Johannesburg was packed, yet people squeezed into any and every available space. Within minutes of watching the film, I understood why there’s such a buzz ahead of its cinematic release; it’s an exceptionally funny comedy about two best friends traveling to Cape Town to get to a wedding.

Jann Turner describes the film as a collaboration between herself, Rapulana Seiphemo and Kenneth Nkosi. The three met on Isidingo.

“The years of friendship and working together on television, means that ten years later, we can finish each other’s sentences,” says Jann. “We trust that we can have a horrible fight and know that we’ll get through it together. We wrote the script together and produced it together. As three we were strong. While we worked as director and two actors on set, it was organic and equal as well.”

The idea for White Wedding came to them one Christmas when the trio traveled to Cape Town in a big land cruiser. They found peoples’ reactions to them as two urban black boys and a white woman interesting and funny.

“Over the years we talked about the film, but it wasn’t until 2007 that we wrote down a treatment. We talked about the kind of movies we liked and we also talked about the kind of resources we had available to us. The idea of two guys in a car on a road trip, appealed because it’s manageable, there’s not a lot of costume changes, the scenery is there, and you can take a small crew. The film is about what happens when people move past the encounter that is white and black, male or female or Xhosa and Zulu, in the case of Ayanda and Kenneth. In this film, we look at it in a comic way and show how it can be diffused when people are forced or take the time to meet.”

Jann explains that the financing of their film is a fairytale-funding story:

“My step father is a successful UK writer, Ken Follett. Ken also knew Raps and Kenny and he loved them. I was on holiday with my parents when I tidied up the treatment. Ken read it and said he’d be interested in investing and that’s really how it started. It’s a business arrangement between Stepping Stones Pictures and Ken Follet. We were in an incredibly wonderful position. We had somebody who knew us, trusted us, gave us great story input and then let us make the film. Rapulana introduced an ethic into our company a long time ago, which is that everybody gets paid. So there are no referrals. Often people got paid the minimum, but no one worked for free.”

While they are still closing their books on the final figures, the film shot in 18 days is estimated to have cost about 5 million rands. “We shot on high definition, which projects beautifully on the big screen and Ster Kinekor is releasing the film digitally. For independent filmmakers, this is a signal of hope, as it means that films can be shot on digital and still released theatrically.”

One disappointment for the trio is that their film, although selected, was not screened at FESPACO Film Festival as the film was only available in digital format.

“I think that it’s unfair to independent filmmakers because we don’t have a quarter of a million rand or an international distribution to pay for a print. So we didn’t screen at FESPACO because they insisted on a film, and if we did [have the money], we’d rather spend that money on the next movie.”

South African film can only really succeed if there are bums on seats in the cinema especially in the first week. I think that the trio has achieved a step towards what one can describe as a truly South African film, despite the fact that Jann is adamant that “We did not set out to make the big South African film, its just Jann and Raps and Kenny’s film.” This is definitely a film I would pay to see. It is refreshingly honest and politically incorrect.

About the Director

Akiedah Mohamed

Akiedah Mohamed is an award-winning South African documentary filmmaker, writer, and playwright.  Born and raised in Cape Town, she now lives in Johannesburg. Among her best known films is The Malawian Kiss (1999), which follows the life of Faghmeda Miller, a Muslim HIV/AIDS activist.  For the documentary, Akiedah received the Sithengi International Film Market’s Special Jury Merit Award. Her films deal with sensitive or under-addressed issues that affect her religious community or South African society in general.  These themes include polygamy, South Africa’s prison system, and death and dying.  More recently, she adapted a short story by South African author Ahmed Essop about interracial romance into a screenplay titled Gerty’s Brother. Akiedah speaks of “a very conscious decision to explore a wider range of experiences of being Muslim” that has yielded a focus on subjects like the second wife in a polygamous marriage or a woman dealing with her HIV-positive diagnosis. This decision comes from a belief that it is important to move beyond the ideal represented by visible public figures in the public sphere in order to provide a truer picture of any community. She says in an interview that she aims through her writing and filmmaking to give a voice to “the other half of the Muslim population.” In addition to magnifying the voices of the underrepresented, Akiedah has used her talents for the good of her community in other ways: she was recognized by the city of Cape Town for her contributions to a sitcom-style “edutainment video” raising awareness of AIDS. She collaborated with comedian Mark Lottering for the project. Akiedah is a member of the executive board of Women of the Sun, an organization whose goal is the advancement and promotion of women in African film and television industries.