Zulu Wedding is a heartwarming story about tradition, love, staying true to oneself and whose nostalgic moments will leave you chuckling uncontrollably. The whole point of going to the cinema is to get lost in the world of make-believe — and it’s always better when the story is so beautifully scripted that you constantly remind yourself not to be too emotionally invested in the characters.
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Shot and produced in South Africa, New York and Botswana, Zulu Wedding tells the story of a young dancer Luyanda Sabata aka Lou (played by Nondumiso Tembe) who leaves South Africa to pursue a dance career in the US, as well as get away from a family ancestral debt that spans decade. Just as her dance career peaks, Lou meets the charismatic New Yorker, Tex (played by Darrin Dewitt Henson) who literally moves mountains to be with her. However, history and cultural demands stand in the way of their new love — Lou has an ancestral promise to adhere to in which she is required to marry a member of the Zulu royal family — that being Zwelibanzi Sthembiso Zulu aka Zee (played by Pallance Dladla). The anxiety-inducing scenes of the film take place when Lou returns to South Africa for her lobola negotiations, also hoping to finally set her family straight on the ancestral debt that has been imposed on her.
“It is an important story to me because it is about love and identity, it explores opposites and engages people from different backgrounds, bringing them together in a unique and exciting way. The themes in this film are love and identity, expressed in the controlling idea: you have to know and love yourself and where you come from before you can truly love someone else,” says director and executive producer Lineo Sekeleoane.
Below are five lessons that have us secretly hoping that Zulu Wedding gets adapted into a TV series:
- Bubu Mazibuko and Makgano Mamabolo are freakin’ great actresses. Mazibuko plays Sam, Lou's vodka-loving and perpetually tipsy friend, while Mamabolo plays Mabo, Lou's eccentric and overly dramatic younger sister. Seeing both of them on Zulu Wedding after their long hiatuses on TV highlighted the glaring gap that they have left on the local acting scene. It takes a special kind of actress to pull off a comedy script and both delivered their performances effortlessly. In fact, the all-star cast brought their A-game to this local film, with the exception of Dj Tira, who honestly should have taken acting lessons before accepting this big role in such an important film. Apologies for addressing this massive elephant in the room, but someone had to say it [chuckles]!
- Set high standards where love is concerned. And don’t worry about alienating potentials and chance-takers because if he’s serious about being in your life for the long-haul, he will literally jump through hoops and bring Mount Everest to your doorstep to be by your side. The runaround Lou gives Tex at the start of the film was a reminder of just how thoroughly we need to scrutinise potential boyfriends. Tex went as far as flying in a species of flowers indigenous to South Africa to impress Lou, but she still didn't budge. Yet, we are out here branding guys 'The Ones' just because they send flattering WhatsApp texts every morning. It's time we upped our standards — sorry to dictate! [Dodges social media bullets]
- If a local film's going to feature international actors, then allow them to be themselves — accent and all. Let’s just say that we are still recovering from Taye Diggs’ beyond-dismal Zulu accent on Drum, a film that was supposed to be a classic especially considering the legacy brand that Drum magazine is. We loved how Nate (played by American director, producer and actor Carl Anthony Payne II) and Tex didn't overcompensate so as to fit into a predominantly South African storyline.
- Negotiate the life you want — sans what culture and tradition dictate — and go after it. Take a page out of Lou's life who, despite what the family elders had been convincing her to do her entire life, crafted her own life in a new city.When the time to face her reality back home presented itself, she still stuck to her guns.
- Authenticity wins all the time. Much as we still have a long way to go in catching up to how international countries support their creative/entertainment industries, one thing's for sure about South African audiences — give them a genuine story (one that's as close to their realities as possible) and you will have yourself hordes of loyal fans, who will freely market your offering through word-of-mouth.