You’re invited to the wedding of the year! Lagos’s filmmakers brought fun, laughter, energy (A LOT), vibrant colours, music, dancing, and love with them to the opening night of the Toronto International Film Festival (www.tiff.net) with the world premiere of ‘The Wedding Party’. It also didn’t hurt to get some help from Selma’s David Oyelowo (pronounced – “oh-yellow-oh”) who got the audience pumped up! Whether you were standing in line that wrapped around buildings [as I did] or walking the red carpet, the energy, the experience, and the atmosphere was nonetheless equally intoxicating.
This year’s TIFF will showcase 296 features and 101 shorts played across 28 screens with over 32,320 minutes of film from 80-plus countries (including Nigeria). [Phew!]
The cinema of Nigeria, more popularly called Nollywood, has an impressive legacy in film that goes as far back as the late 19 century and has gone through four eras including the Golden Age. Let’s fast-forward to the present in the era dubbed the New Nigerian Cinema that kicked off in the 2000s, emerging as a force to be reckoned with government support valued at over US$220 million. Nollywood has since become the third most valuable film industry in the world (just behind Hollywood and Bollywood) and in 2014 was worth US$5.1 billion.
Which brings us back to ‘The Wedding Party’ and as the name suggests is a romantic comedy (romcom) film centered on an elaborate Nigerian wedding between Dunni, an art gallery owner and her fiancé Dozie, the son of a magnate. We get a sense of each character as the film has some a good opening couple of scenes, which setups the story and gives us a glimpse of what’s to come. The opening shot of the film takes you on a ride through picturesque Lagos, Nigeria that looked and felt a lot to me like my own country (Jamaica). I was already at ease by the sights and sounds and sank further into the red comfy theatre seats. It’s a party onscreen and it’s a party in the theatre!
Everyone’s enjoying themselves and the moviegoers, especially the Nigerians are cheering for almost everything like the montage captures traditional food being served at the wedding reception. The film wastes no time escalating into pure Lagosian chaos thanks to it’s a talented ensemble cast. They’re some of the biggest names and raising stars in Nigeria’s cinema and under the direction of the film’s first-time feature film director Kemi Adetiba, display great chemistry, depth, range, and comedic timing (as-needed) in their delivery.
I was lucky enough to be among those viewers seeing the film (The Wedding Party) for the very first time anywhere in the world. I even got tickets for reserved seating (pretty exciting) thanks to my friend, Meg Sethi (President | Founder) and her Team EPR (Evolution Public Relations), who was the publicist for the movie and red carpet event. Not only was I seated about 10 rows from the screen, but the cast and director of the film were seated three rows behind me. My first thought was, “I can’t imagine what it must feel like for them to be seeing themselves onscreen in this project.” This was quickly answered by their cheers and laughter as the film quickly got underway.
There’s dancing. Lots and lots of dancing and throughout the film the infectious rhythms will leave your feet enthusiastically choreographing their own moves. Although, the entire film takes place in one day, we get tremendous glimpses and insight into the relationship shared between Dozie and Dunni from their best friends and family. As we watch their dynamic play out before us, there’s an authentic chemistry between both actor and actress, particularly when Dunni is bombarded with a few embarrassing moments, some involving Dozie’s ex-girlfriend.
The Wedding Party is jam-packed with funny one-liners, uninvited guests, that ONE friend we wish we didn’t have, and touching moments that combine to make one thrilling roller coaster ride. It’s brightly coloured sets and costumes and rip-roaring pace make it all worth it at the end. The film runs for all of 110 minutes, but when you’re immersed into the film, you’ll barely notice. You’re left satisfied to have taken part in such a spectacular culture. I give the movie a solid 8 out of 10.
The Wedding Party stars Banky Wellington (Dozie/Groom) and Adesua Etomi (Dunni/Bride) who play the lead characters with their supporting cast that include Richard Mofe-Damijo (Felix Onwuka), Iretiola Doyle (Obianuju Onwuka), Atunyota Akpobome (Bamidele Coker), Sola Sobowale (Tunuade Coker), Somkele Iyamah-Idhalama, and Olusola Abiodun Sobowale with Executive Producer Mo Abudu and Cinematographer Akpevbe Ododoru.
Festival tickets are on sale now for today’s showing (Friday, September 9th) with a third showing slated for Sunday, September 18th at the Scotiabank Theatre Toronto. It’s rated 14A, suitable for viewing by persons 14 years of age or older. Bring some friends and family or go as a date night. I promise you, it’s the most fun you’ll have at TIFF!
Also, be sure to check of the film fest’s cinematic smorgasbord ranging from action and adventure to experimental and the avant-garde.