If there's one wedding that all South Africans are keen to attend, it's the latest South African film White Wedding, which caused a sensation at the box office taking R1, 448,595 at its opening weekend.
"We are thrilled and a little overwhelmed," says writer-director Jann Turner, who makes her feature directorial debut.
"We'd hoped people would like the film, but we weren't prepared for such a huge response. Nevertheless, we are delighted."
The film has garnered 48 000 attendances since its release on Wednesday 29 April, and outperformed X-Men Origins: Wolverine at sites like Ster-Kinekor Maponya Mall, Sterland, Savannah Mall, Southgate and The Wheel amongst others.
"We've watched every kind of local audience watching our movie, and what every screening has had in common are the smiles on people's faces when they leave the theatre. I am elated with the way SA audiences have received the film," said director Jann Turner in response to the unprecedented performance of the film to date.
Writer-producer-actor, Kenneth Nkosi concurs: "South Africans are sending us a message; they want to see themselves and laugh at themselves on the big screen."
White Wedding sold three times more tickets than the hit gangster movie Jerusalema did on its opening weekend, and twice as many tickets as Academy Award Winner Tsotsi did at the time of its release.
Says Helen Kuun of Ster-Kinekor Distribution: "Both Kenneth and Rapulana have starred or featured in many successful local feature films in recent years (Max and Mona, Hijack Stories, Jerusalema, Tsotsi) and subsequently have built up a big-screen fanbase. White Wedding's results illustrates that local star-power can bring people to cinemas in equal numbers to those that US star-driven films do."
Turner believes that local audiences responded to the film so well because "it tells a story of ordinary people dealing with their ordinary issues", and "perhaps because South Africans are in the mood to laugh at ourselves."
Turner co-wrote the film with Rapulana Seiphemo and Kenneth Nkosi, the stars of the highly rated movie Jerusalema - Seiphemo has appeared in a number of prominent South African movies such as Hijack Stories and Tsotsi and on the small screen he plays Pheko Mokoena in Muvhango, which is running on SABC2.
Turner met Nkosi and Seiphemo when they met in 1998 on the hit daily soap Isidingo.
In White Wedding Nkosi plays a loyal, committed and very decent Elvis, who leaves Johannesburg on Tuesday en route to pick up his best friend and best man Tumi (Rapulana Seiphemo) in Durban.
On their hilarious and adventurous journey to Cape Town to begin rehearsals for Elvis's wedding to the beautiful Ayanda (Zandile Msutwana) things don't go according to plan.
As Tumi and Elvis struggle to find their way through the Eastern Cape they are picked up by Rose (Jodie Whittaker), a young English doctor who fled the altar after discovering her fiancée was serially unfaithful to her.
Now there's an unlikely trio on the road, with romantic sparks igniting between the flirtatious Tumi and their spirited British companion.
White Wedding is an appealing, feel-good movie about love, commitment, intimacy and friendship and the host of maddening obstacles that can get in the way of a happy ending. Uplifting and at times uproarious this is a movie that affirms the dream that romance can overcome any obstacle.
QUESTION AND ANSWER WITH JANN TURNER
Daniel Dercksen shares a few thoughts with Jann Turner
How do you feel about the great response it received at the box office in SA?
Thrilled and a little overwhelmed. We'd hoped people would like the film, but we weren't prepared for such a huge response. Nevertheless, we are delighted.
Why do you think local audiences has responded so well?
That's hard for me to say. Perhaps because White Wedding tells a story of ordinary people dealing with their ordinary issues, perhaps because South Africans are in the mood to laugh at ourselves?
Tell me about WHITE WEDDING? Why did you choose this film as your big screen directorial debut?
I think White Wedding chose me! But I'm glad it did. It's a film that relies a great deal on script and on performance. Writing and working with actors are two of my favourite things in the world.
The film is described as 'about romance and race relations in the New South Africa'?
White Wedding is a film about Elvis, Tumi, Ayanda and Rose - characters who are dealing with relationship issues - collegial and romantic and familial relationships. They are characters dealing with themselves and one another and the stuff that happens in life.
The film is also very much about the battle of the sexes, and traditional values versus the now generation?
Ayanda's story is very much about her dealing with her mother and their differing views on Ayanda's wedding. Ayanda wants a hip, contemporary, chic "white" wedding in a fancy location. Ma Vee wants a traditional township wedding so she can invite all her friends and neighbours and women from the stokvel and the church etc. etc. So there is a generational battle that goes on between the two women that is part of the tension and drama of the story.
You wrote the script with Kenneth Nkosi and Rapulana Seiphemo. Did you work well as a team?
We worked very well as a team, probably because we've known each other for so long. We start with an outline, which we refine through several drafts and then flesh out the scenes into a script. We wrote three drafts of the screenplay before we shot it. We work in extended meetings - me at the keyboard and Raps and Kenny either side of me - about three to four hours at a time. After a workshop I clean up what I've recorded and e-mail to them. Then we wait a few days, read it through and then sit down together again.
It must have been great to have the writers as actors on set?
Yes, it was part of the reason we were able to shoot the film so quickly - 18 days - Raps and Kenny knew own characters so well it meant they worked very quickly and were also able to support other actors whose characters they knew very well too.
Was it a difficult film to make?
No, it was a wonderful film to make. We were blessed. We had a great cast and crew and wonderful locations to shoot in.
Was it difficult for you making the transition from television to film?
Not really, I think I was ready for the challenge. And White Wedding wasn't a huge jump - it's not a big movie. I think we were all ready for the stretch and that in retrospect we were right to keep the film small.
Your views on the industry in South Africa?
It's still a very young industry, but it feels like something is happening, like we're in the midst of an important growth spurt. It's wonderful that there are more movies coming out - some going straight to DVD, some to cinema, but all of them building audiences.
What do you think are the ingredients of a South African film?
Eish, I don't know how answer that question. Pap and wors? We didn't set out to make a South African film. We're South Africans who set out to make a film.
What do you hope audiences will get from watching WHITE WEDDING?
Laughter. Thoughts that pop up in the hours and days afterwards - thoughts about South Africa and the weird ways in which we relate to one another in our crazy country.
Any advice for budding filmmakers and writers?
Just do it! And then keep on doing it.
Your future plans?
In May I'm finishing a book for Penguin and then we're starting on our next Stepping Stone Picture, which we hope to shoot later this year.
Any comments on the film you would like to share with readers?
Go see it. Tell all your friends and family to see it! Tell your enemies to see it! And let us know what you think by writing in to us through our website.
PROUDLY SOUTH AFRICAN FILMMAKING
Copyright © 2009 Daniel Dercksen/ The Writing Studio