23. Black Nativity
Release Year: 2013
Directed By: Kasi Lemmons
Starring: Forest Whitaker, Angela Bassett, Tyrese Gibson, Jennifer Hudson, Mary J. Blige, Vondie Curtis-Hall, Nas, Jacob Latimore, Rotimi, Luke James, Grace Gibson
Let’s be honest: There’s not a whole lot of representation in Christmas movies. For a very long time, and still to this day, holiday films are largely whitewashed for reasons that won’t be unpacked here. If you’re looking to see yourself in Christmas stories as a black person or an LGBTQ+ person, you’ll be forced to keep adding it to your wish list year after year. But every so often a movie like Black Nativity comes along. Further proof that Angela Bassett always saves the day.
In Black Nativity, Langston Cobbs (Jacob Latimore) travels to New York City to spend Christmas with his estranged grandparents when his mother Naima (Jennifer Hudson) is evicted from their Baltimore apartment. When he arrives in New York, Langston discovers that Reverend Cornell (Forest Whitaker) and Aretha (Angela Bassett) have strict rules that he’s not used to following, including going to church. Langston sets out on a journey back to his mother during which he learns the importance of faith and family.
Black Nativity, a retelling of Langston Hughes’ play of the same name, wasn’t a massive success. The film earned a meager $7.4 million at the box office against a $17.5 million budget and holds a 53% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. In short, it’s not a Christmas classic that will be aired ad nauseam each year, but it’s further evidence that we need more representation in holiday films, particularly those that appeal to the whole family and tell universal stories.