Shown Four Times at Toronto International Film Festival
By Stephen Weir in today's Caribbean Camera
When THE WEEKEND opens in the United States later this fall, audiences there may assume that this Black RomCom movie is American. But one doesn’t have to dig deep to find its Canadian roots. Written and directed by Stella Meghie of Toronto, THE WEEKEND had its world premiere at the 2018 Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) where it was shown four times.
Meghie, now based in the US, has made three films in the past three years, and some of them have made big money in Hollywood. Her new romantic comedy is expected do the same. It is already attracting interest from film distributors on both sides of the border.
“Stella Meghie was born in Toronto but we really have to call her Oshawa’s own,” said TIFF's Artistic Director, Cameron Bailey.“ Her new movie is different from the typical Black Romantic Comedy. There is a real Canadian edge to this one.”
It's about a couple of couples whose relationships go sour over a weekend at an East Coast B&B. Former Saturday Night Live cast member Sasheer Zamata stars as Zadie, a nasty tongued improv comedian who decides to bring Bradford, her ex (comedian Tone Bell) and his current live-in, Margo (actress DeWanda Wise) to stay at her mother’s B&B for a couple of nights.
The plan? In the beginning Bradford wants Zadie to get-over their failed relationship and for Margo and Zadie to bond. Zadie and Margo both want each other to burn in hell, which is just about what happens to two of the four characters.
It starts off with the two women trading witty insults and dirty looks. Zadie is a "beer and bourbon for breakfast" sort of woman who shudders at the mere sight of the prim and proper Margo rising at dawn to jog.
If things weren’t uncomfortable enough, the three are soon joined by Aubrey (Insecure star Y’lan Noel), a handsome stranger from Montreal who has no idea what sort of situation he’s checked into. Jealousies and desires arrive in tandem. The isolated B&B, with its woodsy surroundings designed to create an air of tranquility only heightens the tension. Zadie is smart and funny, but also self-absorbed to the point where she cannot see the troubles brewing right under her nose.
“ Although this is not autobiographical – I wrote it for a comedian, which I am not – it does have some references to my upbringing in Canada,” said Meghie. “ When my mom retired from Bell Canada, she bought a B&B in Bethany near Peterborough. She has now moved just down the road to Port Hope where she has an even bigger B&B.”
The filming took place in just two weeks in and around Malibu, California, although the film is actually supposed to be set in " East USA. " The B&B is pure Canuck, inspired by her mother’s business.
Sasheer Zamata on mike with director Stella Meghie and TIFF's Cameron Bailey
Another on screen nod to the Great White North? The handsome stranger (Y’lan Noel) who ultimately steals Zadie’s heart arrives in a BMW with Quebec plates. He is moving to the US by himself – his Canadian lover decides she can’t leave the province and pulls the plug just as he heads out the door.
“ I am so glad to be in Canada. I am having a blast,” said comedian Sasheer Zamata “This is only the second time that I have seen the movie.”
“You know I have played a lot of ‘cute’ girls over the years, it is really fun to be a messy person for a change,” she told the large audience following one of the screenings. “ Love this Canadian director (for the freedom she gave me to act). I would say that 50 per cent of my dialogue was improvised.”
Homegrown Pictures, THE WEEKEND' s production company, is dedicated to producing the work of writers and directors who create authentic depictions of people of diverse backgrounds. They have not yet announced when the movie will be shown in Toronto theatres or on movie services like NetFlicks or HBO.