Directed by: Kasi Lemmons
Originally written by Langston Hughes, the play was first performed Off-Broadway on December 11, 1961, and was one of the first plays written by an African-American to be staged there. It has been performed annually in Boston, Massachusetts, at Tremont Temple since 1969. This version is a contemporary adaptation of the celebrated play. The holiday musical drama Black Nativity follows Langston (Latimore), a street-wise teen from Baltimore who has been raised by his single mother, Naima (Hudson) as he travels to New York City so as to spend the Christmas holiday with his estranged relatives, the Reverend Cornell and his wife Aretha Cobbs (Whitaker and Bassett).
The back-story to this wonderful holiday, family drama is that when Naima was younger, she becomes pregnant by Tyson (Tyrese Gibson) who fancied himself as something of a self-stylized “gangsta.” As could be expected, the Reverend Cobbs (who had met Martin Luthur King as a child), wasn’t impressed and forced them apart. Angry at her father, Naima ran away from home, and cut off all ties with her parents. Now, years later, she is struggling, and about to get evicted from her house (which is why she sends Langston to be with his grandparents).
Unwilling to live by the imposing Reverend’s rules and missing his mother, a very frustrated Langston is determined to return home and become reunited with her. Langston embarks on a surprising and inspirational journey and along with his new friends, and a little divine intervention, he discovers the true meaning of faith, healing, and family. The musical is both watchable and compelling (we never saw it as a play, but were told by someone who did that this was a much better, as the play was a two hour sermon, while this was an engaging film).
Unfortunately, this fil, like another new holiday film (A Miracle in Spanish Harlem), have not really seen the kind of promotion that they deserve, as both are wonderful films, and deserve to be seen this holiday season.
Robert J. Sodaro has been reviewing films for some 30 years. During that time, his movie reviews and articles have appeared in numerous print publications, as well as on the web. Subscribe to receive regular articles and movie reviews.