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Jann Turner’s Engaging White Wedding


South African filmmaker Jann Turner has had a tumultuous relationship with her native homeland. The daughter of anti apartheid activist Rick Turner, assassinated in 1978, shot through a window of his home, he died in the arms of then 13-year-old Jann.

Nelson Mandela described Rick Turner as “a source of inspiration,” and following his murder, teenage Jann and her family fled South Africa for the UK. A graduate of NYU Film School, Turner eventually returned home and fostered a successful directing career in television. A published author currently working on her third novel, Turner spent the summer vacationing in Venice Beach, yet life back home is never far from her thoughts.

“Being in California I feel like I’m having an affair with this freewheeling, sunny, easygoing, safe place, where my very stimulating, abusive, complicated, dark, crazy husband is back home in Johannesburg,” Turner explains. “It’s deeply home in the sense that it engages my heart in the way that the word ‘home’ kicks infor everybody certain images and smells.

“I grew up in apartheid the child of activist parents, so I was raised in this weird environment of surveillance and political harassment, which is an extraordinary childhood. But then my father was killed and that was devastating and chopped my life in two and my mother moved us to England. I felt lost in Britain for the first few years. I felt grief-stricken and I didn’t have any references to hook into, even though my grandparents were English. It was alien to me and I longed to go home. But the upside of being uprooted is that you experience other places and other cultures.”

Turner’s recent big screen directing debut is the comedy White Wedding, a runaway hit and South Africa’s official entry for the 2010 Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film.

Aromantic take on people encountering one another with all their prejudices in play and being forced by circumstance to find affinities that are liberating and humanizing, the director points out she and her co-writers and fellow producers, as well as the film’s two leading men, Kenneth Nkosi and Rapulana Seiphemo, were in a jovial mood when they plotted out their collaboration.

“We’ve all worked on serious projects and dramas and when we started talking of ideas for a film we were in a light mood,” Turner explains. “It wasn’t so calculated; we just wanted something lighter. It so happens that Kenneth is one of the country’s foremost comics so he’s very funny. We had arrived at a point of wanting to laugh at ourselves, as a country and our issues, which is very much why the film did so well. It’s so refreshing to see our story told in a way where we can laugh. We made a comedy but it’s a serious-minded film in its own way so it’s very rewarding when you can make something that’s entertaining but can also provoke people.” Teaming up once again with Nkosi and Seiphemo, the trio has the action comedy Paradise Stop coming out in the spring with a third film in the pipeline. Anxious for Americans to experience the feel-good White Wedding, Turner’s wishes for audiences are, “Very simply, laughter, and having a fun night at the movies. Profoundly, the film is about prejudice and race, but it’s also about prejudices that men and women have about each other, and whites and blacks have about each other. It’s a liberating and enlivening experience.” 􀀀

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