A new South African film is set to draw crowds to cinemas this May. Billed as the country’s biggest romantic comedy yet, I Now Pronounce You Black and White uses humour to explore the delicate and often fraught issue of inter-racial relationships.
The film is set in Cape Town, in the Western Cape province, and looks at the lives of a young couple, Simon Dawson, played by Tyrel Meyer and his girlfriend, Jackie Msolisi, played by Astara Mwakalumbwa.
After a whirlwind romance, Dawson, a white, Jewish male and Msolisi, a black South African, decide to get engaged – but this infuriates both sets of traditionally minded parents.
Dawson’s dad, Felix, played by Ian Roberts, is a staunch, conservative Afrikaner and his wife Sheila, played by Bo Petersen, is Jewish. They are determined to stop the wedding as they believe their son would be marrying below himself.
Pauline and Clarence Msolisi, played by Sylvia Mdunyelwa and Kwezi Kobus, are Jackie’s parents and are equally shocked by their daughter’s decision. In the film Pauline says she “doesn’t trust white people” and would much prefer Jackie to marry “a nice black man” and have many children. She also wants to derail the wedding plans.
Through the genre of comedy the film explores racial stereotyping and deep-seated tensions that, at times, are still part of the South African reality due to the country’s history of racial segregation under apartheid.
Under this system South Africans were classified according to their race – for example black, white, coloured or Indian – and integration was forbidden. White people were also afforded superior rights over other groups. The first democratic elections in 1994 formally ended almost 50 years of apartheid rule in the country.
Directed by Oliver Rodger, I Now Pronounce You Black and White has been hailed as an important local production. “I think this is a great South African film. It allows us to look at ourselves and start to talk about our reality – even laugh about it – without getting too emotional,” said Tamryn Bishops, who is doing an honours degree in film at the University of the Witwatersrand.
Fellow student Keren Jackson agrees: “I think the film uses humour and romance very well to help us address racial issues under the safety and guidance of entertainment,” she said. Jackson is studying at Afda film school in Johannesburg.
“I love the fact that it also uses the country’s greatest actors. They carry the humour well while getting us to think about serious issues at the same time. As South Africans they understand the issues very well and portray the characters honestly.”