Harlem Community Welcomed to Special Screening of ‘Black Nativity’

December 4, 2013 - On November 20, the Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment, in partnership with Fox Searchlight and The Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, invited members of the Harlem community to attend a special screening of the new feature film, Black Nativity. The film shot extensively in Harlem, and the free preview screening, which took place at the AMC Harlem Magic Johnson 9, was organized to thank residents for hosting the production in their neighborhood.

Among the invited guests who attended the screening were members of Community Boards 9 and 10; members of St. Luke’s Church where the film’s interior church scenes were filmed; staff and members from the Schomburg Center; representatives from the Harlem Arts Alliance and local residents. Although unable to be there themselves, guests on behalf of the film’s location manager David Velasco and Barbara Askins of Harlem BID also attended. Ms. Askins, who helped keep the Christmas lights on 125th Street lit past their usual date, was an integral part to the production and its filming schedule. Other noted guests included Ilyasah Shabazz, daughter of Malcolm X, and Keith Boykin of MSNBC.

The screening was followed by a brief post-film discussion moderated by journalist and Harlem resident Roy Paul with the producers and co-presidents of Maven Pictures, Celine Rattray and Trudie Styler. Some of the topics discussed included director Kasi Lemmon’s vision for Black Nativity and her desire to set it in Harlem as well as how warm and welcoming all the residents and community leaders were to the production during filming. The producers commented on how much they enjoy working in New York and how they aim to film as many of their projects as possible here, whether the story is set here or not. Finally, audience members had a chance to ask questions and speak to the producers, including those who had been extras in the church and bus scenes of the film.

Black Nativity, which is currently in theatres, is a musical based on a play by Langston Hughes and stars Jennifer Hudson, Forest Whitaker, Angela Bassett, Mary J. Blige and newcomer Jacob Latimore as Langston. In the film, a young teen connects with his estranged grandparents when he spends the holidays with them.
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