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 thereâ€™d ever been a major African-American Christmas movie before — I certainly couldnâ€™t think of one. Packer said, â€œThere hasnâ€™t been a holiday movie about a black family on this level and scale before This Christmas. Itâ€™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. Theyâ€™re just as dysfunctional, just as messed up, just as loving as any other family.â€
Two of This Christmasâ€™s most exuberant scenes, however, capture a uniquely African-American tradition. â€œAt an African-American family, when everyone gets together, weâ€™re going to dance. The film has a â€˜Soul Trainâ€™ line, where people go down one at a time. We had it written in the script, and the execs at Sony didnâ€™t know what it was. When they saw it on the set, they said â€˜Wow, that is really freakinâ€™ cool!â€™ 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 audienceâ€™s favorite scenes, so we put the whole thing before the credits, sort of like a curtain call.â€ The photo above features singer Chris Brown.