Black Nativity, a modernized take on Langston Hughes’ classic musical, stars Forest Whitaker, Angela Bassett, Jennifer Hudson, Luke James, Tyrese Gibson and Jacob Latimore. Eve’s Bayou helmer Kasi Lemmons is producing the Fox Searchlight pic, which started production today in New York. William Horberg and Celine Rattray are producing.
The plot revolves around the retelling of the birth of Christ in the context of the black experience in America, with an all-black cast performing hymns and Christmas carols in Gospel music style, as well as original music written by Hughes. Lemmons’ adaptation adds a narrative about a family conflict between a teenage boy (Latimore) and his estranged relatives Rev. Cornell (Whitaker) and Aretha Cobbs (Bassett).
The music for ‘Black Nativity’ will feature original lyrics and arrangements from Grammy winning singer, songwriter and record producer Raphael Saadiq. The film is produced by William Horberg’s Wonderful Films, and Trudie Styler and Celine Rattray’s Maven Pictures, and will be financed, marketed and released worldwide by Fox Searchlight Pictures.
“The ‘Black Nativity’ story has been an integral part of American theatre and culture since 1961 and it remains a significant work today with productions staged each year all across the nation,” said Claudia Lewis, President of Production, Fox Searchlight Pictures. “We are elated to bring a contemporary version of this timeless work to the big screen under the direction of Kasi Lemmons and with a tremendously talented cast.”
“‘Black Nativity’ has a been a part of my life for many years and I am so excited to be teaming up with Fox Searchlight to bring this unifying and transformative experience to the movies,” said writer/director Kasi Lemmons. “This is a universal story of faith and family, a marker of our times, and an endearing Christmas tale, infused with music from hip-hop to R&B to gospel.”
In a contemporary adaptation of Langston Hughes’ celebrated play, ‘Black Nativity’ follows Langston (Jacob Latimore), a street-wise teen from Baltimore raised by a single mother, as he journeys to New York City to spend the Christmas holiday with his estranged relatives Reverend Cornell and Aretha Cobbs (Forest Whitaker and Angela Bassett). Unwilling to live by the imposing Reverend Cobbs’ rules, a frustrated Langston is determined to return home to his mother, Naima (Jennifer Hudson). Langston embarks on a surprising and inspirational journey and along with new friends, and a little divine intervention, he discovers the true meaning of faith, healing, and family.
‘Black Nativity’ debuted off-Broadway at the 41st Street Theatre on December 11th, 1961. Penned by Langston Hughes, ‘Black Nativity’ opened to rave reviews. It has been in continuous production across the US with theatre companies, churches, college campuses and more for over 50 years.