Toronto International Film Festival (tiff) kicked into motion on September 8, 2016 with top actors across the global film industry descending upon Toronto to debut many of their recent projects. The Magnificent Seven directed by Antonie Faqua was selected by tiff to usher in the festival and notable names at the film premiere was Denzel Washington and Ethan Hawke. Given, the Hollywood A-list attending the premiere, one would conclude that no other film industry could steal the spotlight, however Nollywood ambushed the festival and stole the premiere night.
Living in the middle of the City of Toronto provides a great perspective given you are at caught in between the action in the downtown core and the demure and slower pace of the uptown environment. I bought my tickets for The Wedding Party the day of the premiere just before end of day. Given that I had never attended a premiere, I did not realize it was an event some decided to adorn his or her Sundays best. I managed to avoid throwing on a wrinkled T-shirt and hopped on the train heading south to attend the premiere. To my surprise, or better yet my ignorance, I found out immediately the anticipation of the movie - The Wedding Party. There were about 150 people in line when I got there with the lineup wrapping around the building. I went solo, but the audience was very diverse with couples, groups of men and women and also other nationalities attending the premiere.
The night kicked off with Cameron Bailey, Artistic Director for tiff introducing the audience to Nollywood and why Lagos City was the focus for the City-to-City initiative at tiff this year. Following Bailey’s introduction was David Oyelowo speaking about Nigerian cinema and the great works that have and continues to come from the country. He would go ahead and show his comedic side by discussing the destruction by non-Nigerians of his name and how he was thoroughly pleased to be in the presence of Nigerians who are able to say his name correctly. The final speaker was Kemi Adetiba, Director of the film. She spoke about the opportunity granted by tiff to her and the other Seven films on the schedule and proceeded to introduce some of the cast members and the producers of the film.
Overall, the atmosphere was energetic, the people came to support and movie provided big laughs for all in the audience. I remember one particular scene involving a pastor that had the guest sitting beside me laughing his ass off. This particular scene was definitely one of the funniest moments in the movie because of its overt slapstick style.
Now, lets talk about some of the characters in the film.
1. IRETI DOYLE – Obianuju Onwuka (Mother of the Groom)
I don’t think I have seen a film where she has not done justice to her character. She had a look of a mother who is clearly not fond of her daughter-in-law that many would call the "stink face". 80% of the movie involved her having this congested look to her that reminds me of a hypothetical moment where a Nigerian boy tells his mother “your daughter-in-law to be is from"... - *insert non-Nigerian*. Keeping up the stink face with a foul mouth to get at her husbands soul was hilarious to me. The husband jumped at her every breath even when her conversation was not involving him. Later in the movie, the audience would find out the reason for the congested look, but for 80% of the movie I was perfectly happy seeing her keep up the stink face to shake the other characters in her way.
2. ZAINAB BALOGUN – Wonu (The Wedding Planner)
My first encounter with Zainab was through the television series, Before 30. I thought she was not only a beautiful woman (yes, if she ever reads this – I am shooting my shot…SWISH), we both can share the same barber, and her role in the series evoked the most emotion of all the characters. As the wedding planner in the film, she attempts to bring her Eurocentric structure to a Nigerian wedding setting that never works. In the end we would find out all her English jargons and bossy style would bite her in the ass. All that stress of speaking English would later let us admire that low cut she rocks so well.
3. BANKY WELLINGTON – Dozie Onwuka (The Groom)
One particular moment stands out for me with his performance, which was the beach scene in the film. The wife finds out a secret through a clumsy “best man” and decides to run to her favorite place in the world. Really? I have questions and Sway has no answers. First, how did a cab arrive so quickly at the event in Nigeria with its crazy traffic and how did she even manage to drag that dress away from the party. So he meets up with her confesses his love again. I imagine in a Bollywood film, this would have turned into a dancing and singing scene....pardon my tangent. I laughed at the entire scene because I could just imagine how funny that moment must have been on set for Banky W. Overall though, Banky W managed to be effective in a role that involved him vacillating between the comedic scenes and the more emotional scenes.
4. ATUNYOTA "ALIBABA" AKPOROBOME & SOLA SOBOWALA – Bamidele Coker& Tinuade Coker (Parents of the Bride)
It is impossible to not speak in tandem about these two characters throughout the film. They managed to be loudest in the room with their antics, while also being the two individuals with the most love between them. Alibaba as a comedian used his timing skills to exaggerate certain moments that I think helped carry Sola in the film, as she is not a comedian. Her role though as the thorn of the groom’s mother created several laugh out loud moments in the film. Only drawback though was the slapstick nature of it all, which I am not the biggest fan off with regards to the comedy that I enjoy on a regular basis. I’ll take these two in doses but they clearly executed well together in the film.
5. RICHARD MOFE DAMIJO – Felix Onwuka (Father of the Groom)
Richard received the loudest cheer of all the primary characters in the film and we would come to find out in the film why he jumps when his wife breathes. Cowering to every breath his wife exhales, we realize he is the reason for her congested look for majority of the film. Only a potential mishap would lead them to reconcile their feelings. While as an actor he delivers very well because of his experience in films over the years, however I found the story arc of his character to be flat and it lacked opportunities in the movie to keep things light in some of the serious moments in the film.
6. DANIELLA DOWN – Deadre Winston (Maid of Honour)
To see a character without melanin, referred to as "Oyinbo" in the film was very surprising and I think some in the audience were wondering why she was in the film, and why she had such a prominent role. In good fun, she played the “dumb blonde” who surprisingly wants to eat meals such as, pounded yam and efo and she might just enjoy palm wine on her downtime. I am sure we all know someone like this, who in appearance is as white as the only precipitation in the North Pole but manages to have a strong connection to a specific black culture (i.e. hip hop). I usually encounter a white guy bumping his head to Talib Kweli and schooling me on the history of hip hop. Funny enough, most of the time I learn something. Let's just say the crowd at the beginning became very comfortable with her role and the director managed to use her in a way that did not have the audience jumping at the screen to drag her character.
If you saw the movie, what are your thoughts and who were some of your favorite characters in the film?...talk to me.
Writers Note: I am aware that I ranked six characters.