“The Wedding Party 2”: Taking Nollywood Global
When The Wedding Party was released in cinemas in December 2016, it became the highest-grossing Nigerian movie of all time, making over N203 million worldwide in just two weeks at the Box Office. Produced by the ELFIKE Film Collective, a partnership between EbonyLife Films, FilmOne Distribution, Inkblot Productions and Koga Studios, the romantic comedy-drama first focused on the events surrounding the marriage between Dunni (Adesua Etomi) and Dozie (Banky W), from the planning of the wedding to the party itself to the drama one is sure to find at a Nigerian wedding.
The second film, The Wedding Party 2: Destination Dubai, shifted focus to the groom’s brother Nonso (Enyinna Nwigwe) who accidentally proposed to Deirdre (Daniella Down), setting off a chain of intriguing events in a tone that showed that love truly is a universal language that breaks through cultural barriers. Discussing with some members of the lead cast was almost as dramatic as the movie itself, as they brought energy and cheer to the shoot.
Speaking on the energy on set, Nwigwe says,
“This is just one of those few films that get your blood pumping with excitement and you enjoy it no matter how much stress comes. Even when we were all tired, we were still happy because of the synergy with the cast and crew.”
To him, ELFIKE Film Collective has raised the bar in the Nigerian movie industry.
“It’s never been done before in the Nigerian space where four big studios come together to form the collective ELFIKE. No independent producer has such capacity or strength. They’ve brought back confidence to the Nigerian cinema space. The class of people that would rather watch foreign movies, now consider Nigerian films because of The Wedding Party. No one person can outdo a collabo except we start to appreciate collaborative efforts, which is where we should be looking towards so that we can all pull in our strengths to make sure we drive our stories home and our publicity as fast as we can go.”
Speaking further about the need for collaboration he says,
“The world now is about collaboration. The biggest companies in the world are not owned by one person. With Nigeria being the biggest black nation, we thrive in numbers; that’s what we also should take advantage of. Our population is our biggest strength. I think we should embrace our excellence a bit more rather than just sitting down and accepting mediocrity.”
Nwigwe projects the movie being a hit in the cinemas saying,
“I realised that I actually had a higher projection in my head after reading the script and my projection was spot on in the end because I had looked at films that had come before, the model and the previously held record by AY. That’s just one brand and, putting it side by side with a film like this with the kind of ensemble cast, that mix alone will create some kind of interest and excitement, coming from a collective that is all very well in their space and then coming together to pull in their strengths.”
The second film is set to bring a lot more spectacle because of Dubai and the interracial marriage conversation which opens it up to a way wider audience.
“This is not just us creating a Nigerian story like the first one that did so well. I want people to understand the universal language that is love. Nonso, the character I played, proposed by accident. But because he really cared about the girl, he fought to make sure it happened even against certain family disagreements and that’s what mattered. At the end of the day, love conquers all.”
Nwigwe has big dreams and hopes to make a mark with his role as an actor in the industry saying,
“Acting is not just about being a star. I want people to understand that there’s a deeper sense to it, what we do as actors. We try to wear other people’s shoes and feel other people’s pain and pleasure and represent people struggling in different ways.”
Passionate about his music career as he is about acting, Onunaku found his way back to the Nigerian film industry with his features in award-winning movie The Wages which won the Africa Magic Viewers Choice Awards (AMVCA) for the Best Short Feature, Gidi Up and Gbomo Gbomo Express. While auditioning for his role in The Wedding Party, he was initially discouraged by others in competition with him for the same role. So, when he got the part, he was overwhelmed.
“I’m used to performing and learning lines, but this was different. Not only was I surrounded by A-list actors but a lot of them I knew of and revered as legends, so it was very necessary to bring my A game.”
Onunaku played the part of Sola Akinyemi, who was a childhood friend of the groom, Dozie, and an all-round fun guy known to get the party started.
“As much as I read that script over and over again until it was time to shoot, nothing stuck. I did all my real learning on set. I get the question a lot like how much of Ikechukwu is in Sola and I’m like Sola is Ikechukwu, not in its entirety but there’s a lot of Ikechukwu in Sola.”
He noted the “huge difference” between working with the ELFIKE collective and other movies he had featured in, commending everything from having the best equipment and operators on set to the excellent welfare and treatment the cast and crew received.
“I think the purpose of putting that collaboration together was to make sure that production had a certain standard, that the process was seamless and to minimise any kind of technical difficulties or logistic issues or whatever, and that’s exactly what happened.”
The Nigerian entertainment industry has a lot to learn from ELFIKE, according to Onunaku. “If you want to do something, do it right. There’s no need to cut corners.” He also noted that the cast ensemble, regardless of their status in the movie industry, constantly tried to give their best while on set.
The most interesting reactions he got from his role in The Wedding Party according to him were,
“’I didn’t know you can act. Bad guy, so you’re soft like this. Ah eyaa, I feel sorry for your head, just slapping you anyhow anyhow. You should beat Banky.’ The slapping was real and we did it about eight times.”
Onunaku, surprised with how far the success of the first movie went, expects the second to be an even bigger success. He hopes that the audience will watch the movie unbiased and with zero expectations.
“Just go in to have a good time. Know in your mind that you’re going to be entertained and you’re going to have a good time and you’re going to see more in the second one than in the first. Don’t make comparisons. Just take it the way it is. I don’t want to get into the whole culture, interracial marriage and the Igbos and Yorubas were well represented but where were the Hausas and the Efik and all that. It’s not about that. We are really one nation whether people like it or not and we should be able to celebrate that all the time even if we feel like our own certain tribes were not involved.”
British actor Daniella Down found her way into the Nigerian film industry after featuring in a British-Nigerian film called Mum, Dad Meet Sam in 2015. Cast as Deirdre in The Wedding Party, the actor, writer and energetic circus trainer was “really excited” about her part.
“People are excited by this idea of a story that’s bigger than just a Nigerian story. It’s a really cool story, very melodramatic, but at the heart of it, it’s just a love story and love doesn’t really have cultural boundaries. My character has best friends that are both from Nigeria and she comes for a wedding and it spirals and her whole life changes. I think a lot of people are expecting Enyinna and me to get married in real life — that’s becoming very apparent on social media — and we have Adesua and Banky to thank for that.”
She felt the movie was very special after finding herself on set with “very famous, successful and talented Nigerian actors, comedians and musicians”. The actress, however, admitted to facing a few challenges during the production, asides the hot weather in Lagos and Dubai.
“With any large-scale project like this, there are always unforeseen challenges that come up from things not being available location-wise or something technical going wrong. But, in Nollywood, they are very good at fixing problems. Cultural nuances and differences are always going to be there in every film industry but I think the cool thing is that everyone is telling really interesting stories. It’s incredible what we can create if the story is good enough.”
For Down, working with Nollywood made her realise that this movie was a voice speaking out to the world to sit up and take notice of the Nigerian film industry.
“Just the other day, I was reading a Dutch newspaper and there was a double-paged spread all about Nollywood. It’s really good that people are noticing. I think you can tell that Nollywood is really starting to take itself seriously and it’s putting a lot more time, energy and money into creating more polished productions overall. There are so many incredible stories to be told from here that are interesting to an international audience.”
Although she has only been experiencing a small side of Lagos in very specific locations, Down loves the welcoming attitude of the Nigerians she has met, especially those who took her under their wing when she first started working in the industry.
“I’ve met so many awesome, funny, talented people with great energy. I’ve never felt anything but welcome. You do not normally see or hear about such cross-cultural stories in Hollywood, according to Daniella, stories that she would like to be a part of “that are kind of real, down to earth, funny, gritty, sad, terrifying, and of wonderful things that happened.”
Creative Direction: Chidera Muoka
Photography: Jerrie Rotimi
Makeup: Jumoke Tychus for Eyesome Beauty
Styling: Nkem Okorafor
Hair: Tony Aigbogun
Shoot assisted by: Chidirim Ndeche