From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.
MICHELE NORRIS, host:
And I'm Michele Norris.
There's nothing new about road trip movies or wedding comedies; they're Hollywood standbys. However, change the setting to Cape Town and make the cast South African and well, things can take a surprising turn.
The film is called "White Wedding" and in it, Elvis, the groom, travels hundreds of miles to get to his wedding on time. His best friend, Tumi, is driving and along the way, they pick up a British tourist named Rose, who just broke off her own wedding engagement.
(Soundbite of film, "White Wedding")
Ms. JODIE WHITTAKER (Actor): (As Rose) Thank God I didn't marry him. I mean, who gets married these days, anyway? Who wants to be institutionalized? My parents have been married for nearly 30 years. They haven't had a conversation in about 29. Why bother?
Mr. KENNETH NKOSI (Actor): (As Elvis) Well, for companionship, for comfort, home-cooked meals, raising kids together, you know, and knowing that you understand each other so well that you don't have to talk all the time. You can just enjoy long silences.
Ms. WHITTAKER: (As Rose) Sounds horrific.
NORRIS: I spoke with "White Wedding" director Jann Turner and actor Kenneth Nkosi, who plays Elvis. They wrote the screenplay with co-star Rapulana Seiphemo. Nkosi told me how they decided to tackle the issue of racism in a joyful wedding movie.
Mr. NKOSI: We have a problem like this in South Africa. It is there, and we want to make it part of this movie. But how are we going to make it part of this movie without having too preachy, and talk about apartheid and how horrible it is but to have fun, laugh about the situations that are there in South Africa - because it's just how it is.
NORRIS: You know, the film looks at a lot of different divides: the racial divide, of course; also the divide, as you say, between the city and the rural culture. It also looks at the cultural divide, even within the races.
A big part of the tension in the film is between Ayanda, the bride, and her mother. Her mother so badly wants a big, traditional wedding with all of her friends there. And they're going to cook all day long. And the bride wants something that's very modern. She wants to be in an upscale space in Cape Town, and make a very modern statement. How real is that tension between the generations in South Africa?
Mr. NKOSI: It is so real. I just got married recently, and I had to have this traditional wedding, you know - a traditional wedding, that's where my mother and her mother - my wife's mother - will then invite everybody else to come and slaughter and eat this big cow, which I've spent a lot of money on.
But then what happens is that later, I get to do my own white wedding with my wife. Because you've got to be able to cater for all those generations. You've got to be able to cater for everybody. But it is true. It is real. There's always going to be the older and the younger conflict in terms of stuff like that.
NORRIS: One of the interesting things about this film, as well, is the overwhelming - sort of social image of South Africa that you get from this film is that there's this burgeoning middle-class, with very middle-class aspirations and all the middle-class problems that come along with that.
Everyone is always on the phone. And what you see is a side of South Africa that's not always evident in popular culture. Was that deliberate, to show that side of South Africa?
Mr. JANN TURNER (Director, "White Wedding"): Oh, absolutely, yeah.
Mr. NKOSI: I mean, if anything, we wanted to show South Africa, the real South Africa and how it is right now. And I know that the whole world knows South Africa, but it's all about the politics and the apartheid and what happened. And that's why it's important for us to have this movie coming here, to the States.
Ms. TURNER: I think it's, it's part of the reason that the film did so well in South Africa. Audiences were so excited to see a film that was about us struggling with ordinary issues rather than with huge political issues and huge social issues - which are all there, but it's much more about ordinary people trying to navigate their ordinary lives within that and through that.
Ms. TURNER: Well, you know, that's how South Africans speak. There was no way we were going to have everybody in this film speak English because it simply wouldn't reflect how South Africans talk to one another.
South Africans use language to include and exclude each other. So translation jokes and misunderstandings are part of our day-to-day, and so they're very much there in the film.
Mr. NKOSI: We've got 11 official languages.
Ms. TURNER: That's a lot of languages. We also as a director, that was a very important decision for me because I think one of the problems that a lot of South African actors face is speaking in a language that's maybe their second, maybe their third or their fourth. And you don't get a performance out of an actor who's speaking in a third language like you get out of them if they're speaking in their first language.
NORRIS: The scene in the bar, where the trio - on their way to Cape Town for the wedding - has to stop in a bar filled with Afrikaners, where there's still a whites-only sign on the door, I'd love to hear a clip from this. And could you help us set this up, and help us understand what you did to get the cast in the right frame of mind for the scene? But before you do that, let's just take a quick listen to this.
(Soundbite of film, "White Wedding")
Ms. WHITTAKER: (As Rose) What's that flag?
Unidentified Man #2 (Actor): (As character) It's a dead flag.
Ms. WHITTAKER: (As Rose) You mean the apartheid flag? Oh, that's like flying a swastika.
GROSS: This whole scene in this bar encompasses comedy, but there's also a lot of tension. There are, you know, people are sort of looking across a chasm at each other, and you're not sure how this is going to play. It could go either way.
Ms. TURNER: That scene comes partly from experience that Rapsid(ph) had, where he'd walked into a road stop, and he'd gone to use the bathroom, and the sign on the door was a whites-only sign. So they were prepared because it wasn't like I was having to explain and set up something that was unfamiliar.
Mr. NKOSI: But in terms of the extras that we used from that small town, if anything, I think we helped a lot of them, you know. And I think to a large degree, we helped them talk. And those people started chatting and talking about this whole situation of race.
Ms. TURNER: Yeah, as we traveled...
NORRIS: Can I just ask Kenneth a question, if you don't mind? Kenneth, you grew up in Soweto, is that correct?
Mr. NKOSI: Yes, I did.
NORRIS: Could you imagine as a very young man, born in the early '70s, that you would be engaged in these kinds of conversations and particularly, in making a film about these kinds of issues?
Mr. NKOSI: Well, back then, my mother would've killed me if I'd actually even said anything about stuff like that. So I did not even imagine that. That's why it is such a great opportunity and a great honor to have worked with Rapulana and Jann, you know, and taking this chain of telling stories -and stories that we love telling.
And I think it is a truth for every South African - or everybody in the world - to make sure that we introduce ourselves to each other in a way that will make us want to build our country or our world, and make it a better place.
So me, I'm thinking "White Wedding" says: Look at them, meet them, get to know them; you might just like them.
NORRIS: Jann, Kenneth, thanks so much for coming in to talk to us.
Mr. TURNER: Thank you.
Mr. NKOSI: Oh, thank you very much. This was quite sweet.
(Soundbite of music)
NORRIS: That was director Jann Turner, and actor Kenneth Nkosi, of the film "White Wedding." It opens in theaters in Los Angeles and New York on September 3rd.