Langston, a street-smart black teen from Baltimore, knows little to nothing about his grandparents, who have never been a part of his life (having fallen-out with his single-mom some years before). Economic hardship results in Langston and his mom being evicted from their home, so the former ends up journeying to New York to spend the Christmas holiday season with his estranged grandfather and his wife.
It doesn’t take so long for Langston to buckle under the strict rules imposted by his grandpa (who is a reverend), which eventually leads the frustrated young man to attempt and flee back to Baltimore. However, along the way, Langston makes new friends who – along with some divine intervention – teach him vital lessons about family, faith, and healing from the past, as illustrated through the soulful music and story of the Black Nativity.
American R&B recording artist and actor Jacob O’Neal Latimer Jr. plays Langston in the film Black Nativity, which is based on the stage musical created by the 20th century black culture innovator, Langston Hughes. The film’s all-black primary cast includes Oscar-winner Forest Whitaker (The Butler), Angela Bassett (Olympus Has Fallen), Tyrese Gibson (Fast & Furious 6), Mary J. Blige (Rock of Ages) and Oscar-winner Jennifer Hudson (Dreamgirls).
The Black Nativity teaser trailer is here, and it provides a sneak peek at the film’s cast – with an emphasis on (no surprise) Latimer and Hudson – performing original songs and tweaked renditions of staple Christmas carols. It seems an interesting mix of gospel and R&B, but we’ll see how musical purists feel about this cinematic interpretation of Hughes’ show. At the least, Black Nativity‘s clean visual design and standard vocal recording approach ought to be less divisive than director Tom Hooper’s use of cinéma vérité techniques on Les Misérables.
Black Nativity was adapted for the big screen and directed by Kasi Lemmons, the actress/writer/director whose filmmaking body of work includes the Southern period drama Eve’s Bayou and true-story based Talk to Me. Both of those movies tend to be cited as being underrated by the online film critic/blogger community, so perhaps Black Nativity will be the project that brings Lemmons more attention and the wider acclaim that many feel she deserves.
Sandy Schaefer blogs at Screen Rant.