THE WEEKEND (Tribeca 2024) – Review by Alexandra Heller-Nicholas

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All hail the mighty Daniel Orihai, who bursts out of Nigeria with a pounding, intoxicating instant horror classic, The Weekend. Nikiya (Uzoamaka Aniunoh) is everything her gentle vegetarian fiancé Luc (Bucci Franklin) could have dreamed of; she’s confident, beautiful and as in love with him as he is with her. But with no family of her own, she yearns for a place in a traditional family, which clashes directly with Luc’s years-long decision to sever all ties with his mother, father and sister. With an invitation to attend his parent’s wedding anniversary celebrations in the village where he grew up, Luc begrudgingly relents, but upon arrival it does not take long for him to remember why he wanted to keep his distance in the first place.

For genre fans outside the Bucci Franklin, The Weekend for many may very well be the first film from the country they have ever seen. And what an introduction; this twisted fish out of water story holds both universal appeal in its tale of the pros and cons of extended family, while simultaneously being very concretely situated in the specific geo-political context of contemporary Nigeria.

While it’s hard to specify precisely what makes The Weekend work as well as it does, the one-two punch of performances from two of the key women in the film – actresses Uzoamaka Aniunoh who plays Nikiya and Meg Otanwa who is Luc’s sister, Kama – is immediately worthy of acknowledgement. This is an ensemble film rich with fascinating characters and generally strong performances which hardly waver even when the movie takes its very brief forays into soap opera terrain. But it is Aniunoh and Otanwa in particular who elevate this movie and make it something not just special, but fundamentally authentic in a very accessible, humane way.

Running a few minutes under two hours, The Weekend is surprisingly well paced and reveals each twist with a captivating rhythm that keeps our full attention. With its recent world premiere at Tribeca, this is one of the festival’s real hidden genre treasures this year, and hopefully at the very least the beginning of further festival play. A tale about families, rituals, the things we unquestioningly take for granted – and the things we don’t – The Weekend is a dark tale of loyalty and tradition run amok.

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Alexandra Heller-Nicholas

Alexandra Heller-Nicholas is a multi-award-winning film critic and author who has published nine books on cult, horror and exploitation cinema with an emphasis on gender politics, including the 2020 book ‘1000 Women in Horror, 1898-2018’ which was included on Esquire Magazine’s list of the best 125 books written about Hollywood. Alexandra is a contributing editor at Film International, a columnist at Fangoria, an Adjunct Professor at Deakin University, and a member of the advisory board of the Miskatonic Institute of Horror Studies (LA, NYC, London).