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December 9, 2013

Black Nativity Movie Review – December 3, 2013

Black Nativity Movie 2013: Why it Flopped!

I was initially very excited when I saw the trailer advertisement of the movie Black Nativity. I was drawn to the supposedly Christian movie by the theatrical church scene where people were dancing and dressed in typical church worship type of atmosphere. Most of the actors and actresses are well known professionals in the movie industry, except for a couple. The movie was starring Forest Whitaker, Angela Bassett, Jennifer Hudson, Mary J. Blige, Tyrese Gibson, Jacob Latimore, Nasir Jones with great talents.

Movie Story Line

The storyline was about a troubled black teenager sent by his mother to live with his grandparents in New York. His mother put him on a bus to go stay with her parents until she was able to get her financial situation together. They were facing ejection from their home.

On arriving in New York, the black teenager was robbed by another street-smart black teenager of his backpack that included all his belongings. The teenager became so confused and went into a hotel lobby asking permission to use the phone. He ended up in jail because it appeared that he wanted to steal a white man’s wallet left on the hotel front counter. Even though he gave the wallet back. He was arrested and ended up in jail where he met another black male, a street hustler much older than him. The guy he met in jail later turned out to be his father.

The teenager finally ended up in his grandparents’ home. He started to steal from them in order to raise money to help his mother back home. His intention was to become a street hustler like the man he met in jail. He became very insulting to his grandparents who forced him to go to church on Christmas Eve. In the process of selling the memorable watch he stole from his grandfather, the owner of the shop recognized the watch whom it belonged to and asked the teenager to take the watch back. The storeowner refused to buy the watch from him because he knew it was stolen, and was very valuable.

The teenager ended up in church for the Christmas Eve service he was reluctant to attend. In the middle of the service he walked out of the church while the grandfather was preaching embarrassing the entire family. He headed to a store to buy a gun. He met the same man he met in jail in a shop selling other items including guns. He pulled a gun on the man to rob him. In the process he found out the man he met in jail was actually his own father. The entire movie crescendo in the church when his mother arrived in New York. The police who arrested him took him to his grandfather’s church while his father soon appeared. The black teenager confronted both the parents and the grandparents humiliating them before the entire church. He wanted to know what happened and why was the family so dysfunctional. The movie ended with the grandfather’s confession, and the whole family all came back together in a joyful celebration of forgiveness as the movie ended.

Personal Opinions

If the movie was designed for the secular world, it achieved its purpose in entertaining the audience. The theatrical scene inside the church was very exciting and joyfully pleasant. The actors and actresses did very superb job. However, in questioning the Christian lesson from the movie, I’m sorry, there is none! I can’t even show the movie at a church movie night. Lessons are usually drawn from the characters based on a Christian storyline. The young black teenager who stole from his grandparents and also insulted them, and later pulled a gun on his own father is hardly a model I want to embrace for my children. The image of wearing earrings underscore part of what is wrong with the black family today. We are accepting thug like images, as the new norms while some Christian preachers are not helping to set the record straight. That’s part of the woes brought to the culture by the thug like rap music infecting black teenagers like a plague. Some older black males do not understand nor differentiate an effeminate image from a masculine image. Society today has engaged in role diffusion now leading to role confusion for especially the teenage boys in fatherless homes. Society has been trying hard to feminize young boys contrary to what is happening in other cultures with distinctive roles for both males and females based on society’s definition of gender roles. "Real men don’t wear earrings! That’s African traditional culture!" What do you expect when your own Bishop is wearing earrings. Wonderful role model for confused teenagers growing up in a very confused culture!

The script has many problems. Sorry, I can’t identify with any of the characters in the movie. The grandfather did something wrong to have paid off the boyfriend who made his daughter pregnant to get lost. The boy’s father as a street hustler defines negative image of black men by the media. The boy’s mother who was feuding with her parents over the years did not portray any positive image either. The black teenager as the central character developed no redeeming quality even at the end. The most negative part of the movie was placing gun in the hand of a black teenager, reinforcing false stereotype! The same group who produced this movie made similar mistake in another movie that actually makes me want to scream. In "Woman thou art loosed" movie placed a gun in the hand of a woman right inside the sanctuary of God, killing her abuser. If a person has respect for God, killing a person inside the house of God should be a no no! Similarly in this movie, a gun was placed in the hand of a black teenager while pointing the gun at his own father is a very bad  and disturbing scene in the movie. What is the lesson to teenage boys? If you can’t get your way, pull a gun on your parents until they surrender to your wish! Very BAD message! The most dangerous message in this movie is to conclude that black teenagers are unruly and needed to be sent to jail because parents are too wimpy to discipline them. The story portrays a false image about a traditional black family! This movie has nothing in common with traditional black family. The title is very misleading. It's not a Christmas story!

The movie left me with the same stereotype we have been fighting all these years that black teenagers are not only irresponsible, they are criminals who steal and can kill with guns. The movie also implies that older parents are stupid, irresponsible and wimps. It takes a teenage boy to bring all these older folks back to their senses degrading parental value while crediting the teenager with wisdom that eluded the parents. Absolutely insulting to parents! I believe the person who wrote that script has completely lost his mind! As a parent of four children, I was grossly offended and livid! When the teenager left the church in the middle of church service and headed for the store to buy a gun, I was ready to walk out of the movie theatre. But, I stayed to see the end of these many annoying scenes and the reinforcement of false stereotypes of black teenagers left me very dejected. The image of an angry black teenager portrayed in the movie is highly offensive! If this movie was made by Hollywood, many blacks will be demonstrating against showing the movie because of the negative stereotypes.

If you want to be entertained, the end of the movie is a giant theatrical entertainment inside the church. Contrary to my expectation for a time of worship, it wasn’t there. Like many of the entertainments brought into church services these days, the value of sacred worship of God is gradually eroding. At a point it’s going to be none existent. Some preachers are confused that sermon leads people to Christ, or spiritual worship. What leads people to a spiritual worship is for the worship leaders to create a sacred atmosphere of worship inside the sanctuary of God. Sermon may be excluded and still achieve the same objective. I’m not dismissing the importance of a good and inspiring sermon, but it should not be the only focus leading people to a spiritual worship. Already offended, I did not hear the sermon by the preacher in this movie!

I was expecting to see a wonderful Christmas story with stable characters. I was greatly disappointed. I ended up seeing schizophrenic characters with loss of meaning, except for entertainment while Jesus was a sidekick. It’s like prostituting Jesus and the gospel messages of Christ to make money while the meaning of the story is completely lost. The story has nothing to do with Christmas. All of a sudden the same teenager who had all these problems started singing and dancing inside the church at the end. Very unrealistic! When was his moment of conversion from a street thug to a Christian Choir boy? African Americans hate negative stereotypes because such perceptions have caused many of them great harm due to society's prejudice. Compare to other black movies, Bestman Holiday although not suitable for Sunday School audience inside the church, it is a much better and entertaining movie touching one's heart compared to The Black Nativity.

If you want to watch another entertainment, The Black Nativity will not disappoint you. But, as a Christian looking for inspiring moment of spirituality and biblical lessons, you will greatly be disappointed and to some extent may be offended as a black preacher. The $17.5 million dollars used to produce the movie should have been better spent to feed the homeless.

Yinka Vidal, Baptist Church Deacon, and Movie Reviewer for OUTCRY Magazine.

Follow me on Twitter: @YinkaVidal

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