Yet another Nativity movie in the works.

Three years ago, New Line Cinema produced The Nativity Story. Next month, MGM will begin shooting Mary, Mother of Christ.

And now, according to Variety, Fox Searchlight is “fast-tracking” the gospel musical Black Nativity, based on the Langston Hughes show that has been playing continuously in various cities since it premiered on Broadway in 1961; it was, in fact, one of the first plays written by an African-American to open there.

The studio intends to release the movie as early as this Christmas, which sounds awfully fast, indeed.

Just for comparison’s sake, MGM doesn’t plan to release Mary, Mother of Christ until next April; and the fact that The Nativity Story was similarly fast-tracked — the studio bought the script in January and showed the finished movie to journalists in November — was blamed, in hindsight, for that film’s disappointing performance at the box office.

And here it’s almost May, and Fox Searchlight is only planning now to make this movie in time for a December release date? Hmmm, well, if they rely to any degree on the casts and crews that have been staging this musical for decades already, then that might help expedite things.

At any rate, the film will be directed by Kasi Lemmons, an actress whose previous directorial credits include Eve’s Bayou (1997), The Caveman’s Valentine (2001) and Talk to Me (2007).

Side note: The Wikipedia page for this musical states that “Mary’s contractions are echoed through the use of African drums and percussion.” That’s interesting, as I can’t think of any films prior to Franco Zeffirelli’s Jesus of Nazareth (1977) that depicted Mary going into labour — whether out of general squeamishness and/or tasteful discretion around that subject, or perhaps out of respect for the ancient tradition that says she didn’t suffer any labour pains. But apparently this musical had already gone in that direction a good 16 years earlier.

About Peter T. Chattaway

Peter T. Chattaway was the regular film critic for BC Christian News from 1992 to 2011. In addition to his award-winning film column for that paper, his news and opinion pieces have appeared in such publications as Books & Culture, Christianity Today, Bible Review and the Vancouver Sun. He has also contributed essays to the books Re-Viewing The Passion: Mel Gibson’s Film and Its Critics (Palgrave Macmillan, 2004), Scandalizing Jesus?: Kazantzakis’s The Last Temptation of Christ Fifty Years on (Continuum, 2005) and The Bible in Motion: A Handbook of the Bible and Its Reception in Film (De Gruyter, 2016).

  • RC

    no labor pains…you’re kidding me?

    So God places them in a smelly manger, but wants to make sure Mary has no pain in child birth?