A Hollywood Weekend

Lapacazo Sandoval | 11/7/2013, 2:52 p.m.
This year, it seems that the industry has taken a deeper interest in films depicting the past struggles of African-Americans
"Black Nativity"

The phone rings. “Hi, it’s Evelyn from Bazan PR. You’re confirmed to travel to Los Angeles for the Fox SearchLight Pictures junket of Kasi Lemmons’ ‘Black Nativity.’ You’re staying at the L’Ermitage in Beverly Hills. On Saturday is the junket for Malcolm Lee’s ‘The Best Man Holiday.’ I’ll get back to you about your one-on-one to interview the director.”

Hollywood moves fast, but I pack faster! This year, it seems that the industry has taken a deeper interest in films depicting the past struggles of African-Americans and our very bright future.

It’s a bonus that superlative talents like Isaiah Washington (“Blue Caprice”), Idris Elba (“Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom”), Chadwick Boseman (“42”), Chiwetel Ejioror (“12 Years a Slave”) and Michael B. Jordan (“Fruitvale Station,” produced by Academy Award-winner Forest Whitaker, who stars in the upcoming holiday family musical “Black Nativity” and who is a front-runner for a second Oscar nod for his role in “Lee Daniels’ the Butler”) are getting such challenging roles and platforms for their abilities.

I am always mindful that film is a business—a big global business—and the box office receipts on Lemmons’ “Black Nativity” and Lee’s “The Best Man Holiday” are going to surprise many industry forecasters, but not me. Even Stevie Wonder can see that these two films will have a strong connection with a wide range of audiences around the globe. It’s also safe to state that both films are well on their way to earning classic film status.

On Nov. 15, “The Best Man Holiday” opens, starring the divine nine: Monica Calhoun, Sanaa Lathan, Nia Long, Regina Hall, Melissa De Sousa, Morris Chestnut, Taye Diggs, Harold Perrineau and Terrence Howard.

On Nov. 28, the musical family holiday must-see “Black Nativity” opens, starring Academy Award winners Forest Whitaker and Jennifer Hudson, Academy Award nominee Angela Bassett, Tyrese Gibson, Mary J. Blige and the incredibly gifted Jacob Latimore.

Based on the Langston Hughes’ play of the same name, “Black Nativity” is equally inspirational and entertaining, a nice early holiday gift from Lemmons. Call it divine intervention or Harlem inspiration, but Lemmons’ created a new family classic that will have wide nonsecular appeal while still being enthusiastically embraced by the faith-based community.

The feel-good musical stresses the importance of faith, the value of family and the healing power of forgiveness. The journey is told from the point of view of young Langston (Latimore), who’s sent to spend the holiday season in Harlem with his grandparents, who he has never met.

The strange estrangement between his mother (Hudson) and his grandparents (Whitaker and Bassett, playing a charismatic minister and his elegant “first lady of the church,” respectively) is the big, pink elephant strutting around the room.

In this well-weaved narrative, Langston’s feelings of isolation and frustration come to a dramatic head. It’s a wake-up call to parents to start acting the part all the time and know that your pride truly goeth before the fall, and that fall, when you have children, won’t just affect you.