One of the more irritating films to follow earlier this year was Kasi Lemmons' planned adaptation of Langston Hughes' play, Black Nativity. The film got off to a promising start, with Samuel L. Jackson and Angela Bassett coming aboard to star in the holiday musical, and Jennifer Hudson circling one of the other lead roles. Then suddenly, just days before production was to begin, the film was shelved after Jackson bailed and a black actor of equal stature was unable to be found. Can't find any credible black male actors to sell a positive, family-oriented film in a genre that's wildly popular right now? Gimme a break.
Well now there's good news. Our good friend Wilson Morales over at Blackfilm is reporting that Black Nativity is back on, with a start date set for January 2013. Forest Whitaker will step into the male lead, with Bassett and Hudson officially on board. Some are trying to say that Jackson was never really in the running, but y'know I don't really buy that, either.
The story sounds like a Christmas version of Spike Lee's Red Hook Summer(lord let's hope not!), and follows a a Baltimore teen who is sent to Harlem to spend Christmas with the grandparents he never knew. His grandfather gives a Christmas sermon that helps teach the boy all about faith and family. Jackson and Bassett will play the grandparents, while Hudson is their 31-year old daughter who hasn't spoken to them since she became pregnant. Whitaker will go all Cloud Atlas and play multiple roles during the nativity scene. He'll make one helluva goat.
Lemmons is a wildly underrated filmmaker, so it's good to see her get another major gig, especially one like this that has the potential to appeal to a wide audience.