Though us Canadians celebrated our Thanksgiving 6 weeks ago, it’s not hard to get caught up in the festivities with my American homies as they prepare for feasts of gratitude this weekend. I know that as soon as the food has settled and the tryptophan has taken hold, it’ll be time to look forward to the Christmas season – and thanks to the good folks at Fox Searchlight, I got a dose of the holiday warm and fuzzies at a Toronto screening of Black Nativity on Monday night!
Starring Jennifer Hudson, Jacob Latimore, Tyrese Gibson, Angela Bassett, and Forest Whitaker, Black Nativity is a modern film adaptation of the classic play by Langston Hughes. Filled with themes of family, struggle, forgiveness, and love, the film centres around the traditional Christian Nativity story. I won’t give away any more, but I will tell you my 5 favourite things about Black Nativity!
This summer, I spent a weekend in Harlem for the Blogging While Brown Conference, and fell ALL the way in love. I know there’s nothing new about New York City serving as the backdrop for cinema, but I was giddy as the camera shots panned past spots I ate at, shopped at, hung out at…you get the point. I don’t remember how many times I grabbed HomieLuva’s arm and said, “I went there!” He rolled his eyes, but you know he allowed me my moment. The Harlem shots in the film (and the brownstone where a chunk of the movie took place) were gorgeous.
2. Angela Bassett
I’ve always been a fervent worshipper at the altar of Angela, but my standom exploded this year with her amazing turn as Marie Laveau on American Horror Story: Coven. It was a shift to see her playing a prim and proper preacher’s wife and grandmother in Black Nativity, but she was fierce all the same. I love the diversity of her work, and thought she played this role with the perfect amount of emotion without tipping into ‘corny’ country. She even sang a little bit, and I was surprised to hear that she can carry a note! G’on then, Auntie Angela!
3. Jacob Latimore
Now, I didn’t know much about this young whippersnapper before coming into the movie, except for the random fact that he’s supposedly the newest member of Mindless Behaviour (don’t ask me how I know this). I admittedly don’t have other work to compare him to, but I really enjoyed his role as Langston, the star of the film. The tough-shelled teen with an immense love for his mother and a desire for more out of life…he did that. His voice is amazing, and he has the makings of a wonderful actor, so it’ll be interesting to see where he goes from here.
4. The Church
Now, I’m not the most church-going person in the world. I wasn’t raised in the church, and only started going when I fell in love with a boy who was. Church still often feels like a foreign place where everyone is speaking a language that I don’t understand, but I’d be lying if I said that my symbolism- and ceremony-loving self didn’t see beauty in it. Given that the film is called Black Nativity, I knew there would be an indelible religious overtone. Sometimes that can be intimidating to me, but the film’s presentation was actually quite lovely. Forest Whitaker played a great preacher (even if his pseudo-Brit accent seemed a bit off for a preacher in Harlem), and I could tell that the majority of the audience was really into it.
5. The Music
Black Nativity trailers let me know early on that this was going to be more of a musical than anything else. I’ll be honest – I wasn’t that keen on watching people skip from dialogue to musical solos on the big screen, but thought I’d give it a chance. The voices in the film – Jennifer, Jacob, Tyrese, Mary J. Blige, and guest spots by Luke James and Grace Gibson (Lynn Whitfield’s daughter!) were very well-chosen. Nas also had a couple of prime pieces in the film, threading hip hop throughout in a cool way. My boo, Raphael Saadiq, was the musical director, so as the credits rolled in the first few minutes of the film, I got excited. The music is definitely the star of Black Nativity, and I was pleasantly surprised!
Black Nativity opens in theatres everywhere today, so if you’re in the mood for a feel-good movie that you can see with the family (I don’t remember the last time I saw a movie with HomieLuva and our goddaughter that we all enjoyed), check it out! Major shout-outs to Fox Searchlight for providing me with passes for a few lucky winners – we had a wonderful discussion after the film, and many people are bringing their families back for another viewing this week!
This was a sponsored post, but y’all know I give only the real deal. If you were at the screening, or if you happen to see the film on opening weekend – let me know what you think!
P.S.: The Syndicate. This Saturday. Be there!