South Africa: 'White wedding' finds comedy in clash of cultures

Courtesy of Garth Stead/’White Wedding’
A scene from ‘White Wedding.’

A local, slice-of-life story from a Monitor correspondent.

JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA – It’s a typical buddy movie, a road-trip movie, a love-affair-at-the-brink-of-collapse movie. It’s a movie about race and prejudice, tradition and tolerance that only a nation like South Africa could produce.

It’s called “White Wedding,” a comedy set in Johannesburg and Cape Town and various points in between. The story line follows a young, newly prosperous black South African couple, Elvis (played by Kenneth Nkosi) and Ayanda (played by Zandile Msutwana), who have decided to have a splashy “white wedding.”

Now, in South Africa, this means a wedding in the way that white South Africans have them, complete with a snippy wedding planner, a posh five-star hotel overlooking the ocean, and a small selection of guests wearing their finest clothes. It’s not a wedding that makes the couple’s more-traditional families very happy. For the older generation, a wedding means days and days of cooking, hundreds of guests and family members, and a more communal celebration that may not start on time.

For a country still struggling to define what it means to be African, this clash between European and African traditions is one of the central issues of life, one that affects the way one votes, worships, eats, and relates to one’s fellow citizens, and it makes for great comedic material.

Black friends who have seen this film have universally loved it. Some white friends are amazed that a non-South African could enjoy such a film, especially with its subtitles in Xhosa, Zulu, and Afrikaans. But others see it as a welcome chance to release the daily tension of racial politics with a bit of laughter.

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