Pop Smart - This Christmas: Riding the 'Sooooouul Train!'

(photo courtesy Sony Pictures/Screen Gems)

The week before Thanksgiving I had a fun talk with Will Packer, Atlanta-based co-founder of Rainforest Films and one of the producers of the enjoyable holiday film This Christmas. Back in 2002, I profiled Packer and his collaborator, director Rob Hardy, for a Creative Loafing feature story when they were up-and-coming talents on the Atlanta film scene. Six-and-a-half years later, Packer magnanimously said the story helped put Rainforest Films on the map.

I was only able to include a portion of our conversation in our Holiday Guide. One of the things I asked him was whether there’d ever been a major African-American Christmas movie before — I certainly couldn’t think of one. Packer said, “There hasn’t been a holiday movie about a black family on this level and scale before This Christmas. It’s about time, you know? But we wanted to make it relatable to any family. Even if you made the family in the film colorless, anyone could identify with them, like The Family Stone last year. They’re just as dysfunctional, just as messed up, just as loving as any other family.”

Two of This Christmas’s most exuberant scenes, however, capture a uniquely African-American tradition. “At an African-American family, when everyone gets together, we’re going to dance. The film has a ‘Soul Train’ line, where people go down one at a time. We had it written in the script, and the execs at Sony didn’t know what it was. When they saw it on the set, they said ‘Wow, that is really freakin’ cool!’ So they suggested we do it again over the closing credits, with everyone dancing out of character. That ended up being one of our test audience’s favorite scenes, so we put the whole thing before the credits, sort of like a curtain call.” The photo above features singer Chris Brown.

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