By Andrew Kay
Ostensibly, Mum, Dad, Meet Sam is a Nigerian riff on the classic culture clash comedy ‘Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner’ in which a middle classic WASP couple in 1960s North America are forced to confront their own prejudices when their daughter brings home a black man. In this film, the roles are reversed, with the Nigerian family forced to confront their own bigotry when their highly successful and (only) son brings home an English Rose. Josiah (Joseph Benjamin) is being headhunted by a firm for his outstanding project management skills. Samantha (Daniella Down) is a PR director and is as equally ambitious as Josiah. They meet outside a pub where Samantha is getting over a failed relationship and Josiah becomes smitten. They dislike each other at first, but soon grow to love each other, and, before you know it, Josiah is whisking his very English girlfriend to Lagos, to meet his family. Of course, this where the fun, emotion and heartache play out.
When Sam gets to Lagos, apart from Josiah’s progressive father and sister giving her encouragement, Sam is confronted by hostility from Josiah’s mother, Mama ‘A’ (Helen Gold) and an ex-girlfriend Morenike (Edith Nwekenta – also one of the film’s writers).
‘Mum, Dad, Meet Sam’ gets a lot of the cultural clashes right, such as Sam’s inability to dress appropriately for church or her inability to distinguish between bananas and plantain or referring to Jollof rice as “orange rice”, and most of
it is played for laughs. At other times, the prejudices threaten the relationship, with overprotective Mama A kissing her teeth, talking in Irabu and being unpleasantly confrontational.
Stylistically, the film’s low budget has some obvious drawbacks. The wipe – a device to go from scene to scene either up and down or side to side – is used for both comic effect (it looks like cartoon boxes sweeping from frame to frame) and to cover for a lack of editing, but this is not a TV show, so it looks awkward.
The same goes for the reliance on just placing a camera in the frame and allowing the action to unfold. This might work in a film by Ozu or Kubrick, but in a comedy, it calls attention to itself too often and stops the action from flowing, as it needs to in a fast-paced comedy.
Having said that, the film has a great soundtrack – sounding like authentic Nigerian funk and jazz.
In essence, the film is very likable and there are some decent performances, especially from Afolabi Dasaolu, as Fola, Josiah’s friend and the film’s comic relief.
A touching romance that is both believable and nicely written and played, with some comic asides and a dash of cultural relevance and seriousness. ‘Mum, Dad, Meet Sam’ is a minor comic gem.
UPDATED: Click below to see the behind the scenes video of the premier screening at Genesis cinema, Whitechapel, London.