UNC Lecturer Behind “Black Nativity” Movie Starring Jennifer Hudson, Forest Whitaker

By Rachel Nash Posted November 29, 2013 at 5:30 am

CHAPEL HILL – UNC lecturer Joy Goodwin is the executive producer of the new holiday film, “Black Nativity,” which is now showing in more than 2,000 theaters across the country.

It’s based on a Langston Hughes gospel libretto set in Harlem. The superstar lineup includes Jennifer Hudson, Forest Whitaker, Angela Bassett, Mary J. Blige, and newcomer Jacob Lttimore.

Goodwin has been a lecturer in Creative Writing and Communication Studies at UNC since fall 2012.

Joy Goodwin

Joy Goodwin

She says the idea for the film came about after she saw the play in New York in an off-Broadway production in 2007.

“I was struck by the amazing energy of the play and the audience reaction which was unlike anything I’d ever seen,” Goodwin says. “I thought, ‘This is all the elements of a great film,’ and I want to see what I can do to turn it into a movie.”

Goodwin decided to option the rights to the play and began looking for a director and writer to help turn the material into a big-screen production.

Writer/director Kasi Lemmons helped Goodwin successfully pitch the idea to Fox Searchlight.

The film is described as a “large-scale Christmas pageant” blending together theater, community and music.

“Forest Whitaker, even Angela Bassett, people haven’t seen them singing in films, and they are wonderful,” Goodwin says. “Some of the people you know as powerhouse singers, like Jennifer Hudson, this is her first movie-musical since Dream Girls, will blow you out of your seat, of course.”

When she is not working on a project in Hollywood, Goodwin enjoys teaching eager students here in Chapel Hill.  Her courses, “Introduction to Creative Nonfiction” and “Writing the Profile” are finishing up this semester, and in the spring, she is teaching “Introduction to Screen Adaptation.”

“You are always working with students who are smart and engaged, curious, and who want what you are offering. I think, as a teacher, the greatest privilege is to be in a classroom with people who are leaning forward to hear what you have to say and that has been my experience from the beginning at UNC.”

Goodwin’s next project is a screen adaptation of William Faulkner’s Intruder in the Dust with Winter’s Bone director Debra Granik.

Black Nativity is playing locally at The Streets at Southpoint and Carmike Wynnsong theaters.

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