EXCLUSIVE: Utah-based distribution company Excel Entertainment has acquired distribution rights to the faith-based feature Jane & Emma, and released the first-look trailer. Directed by Chantelle Squires, the film touches on the Mormon Church’s early history of racially discriminatory practices, telling the story of two women: Emma Smith, the wife of Joseph Smith, the founder of Mormonism, and Jane Manning, one of the church’s first black members.
The pic will bow in limited theaters starting October 12.
For centuries, people of African descent were shunned from the church as they were believed to have “the curse of Cain,” who, in the biblical account, was barred from the priesthood after murdering his brother Abel. This year marks the 40th anniversary of the end to that doctrine, which was heavily implemented by Brigham Young, the second president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Filmed on location in Utah and Illinois, the pic centers on the unlikely friendship forged between the two women who come together to survive a perilous night after Joseph is murdered by a mob in Carthage jail. Danielle Deadwyler (The Haves and the Have Nots ) stars as Jane, while Emily Goss (The House On Pine Street) is Emma Smith. Brad Schmidt and K. Danor Gerald co-star.
“For 136 years, the Mormon Church excluded African-Americans from many of its most cherished religious rites and rituals. Yet, Mormon founder Joseph Smith and his wife Emma took the opposite approach, embracing racial diversity in the early days of the church, at a time when slavery was still an established practice in America. By exploring the friendship between Emma Smith, a white woman, and Jane Manning, a black woman, this film provides a template for how modern Mormons can address and overcome the difficult racial history of the church,” said Arthur VanWagenen, CEO of Excel Entertainment.
“For those outside of our community— both religious and secular—Jane & Emma presents an opportunity to talk about race, gender, and religion in a healing and constructive way. This is an opportunity to learn what we can do better as Americans when confronting ills in our own society today.”
Melissa Leilani Larson wrote the screenplay, and the film was produced by Jenn Lee Smith, Madeline Jorgensen, and Tamu Smith and Zandra Vranes of Clearstone Films. Brent Jorgensen, Sterling Van Wagenen (co-founder of the Sundance Film Festival), and Jon Lear served as exec producers.
Check out the trailer above.