Jane and Emma, a groundbreaking new film produced by Excel Entertainment, shares an up close and personal look at the relationship between Jane Manning James and Emma Smith. These are two women whose friendship and sisterhood helped them through trials of faith, racism, and personal sacrifices.
Born a free black woman in Wilton, CT, Jane felt impressed to be baptized after listening to missionaries from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. She was fully convinced that it was the true gospel and that she must embrace it.
After being baptized into the Church, she desired that her family follow her example. Eight of her family members were eventually baptized.
Jane and her family traveled by foot from Wilton to Nauvoo, IL, to live near the Prophet Joseph Smith and other Church members. It was there that she became very close to the Smith family, especially Joseph’s wife, Emma.
“[Jane] was someone in whom Emma could confide in wholly,” said Emily Goss, who portrays Emma in Jane and Emma. “Jane was not competition for Emma, so they were able to have a bond and a true sisterhood. They were intellectual equals and I think Emma admired [Jane’s] own sacrifice.”
“For those outside of our community,” said Arthur Van Wagenen, CEO of Excel Entertainment, “both religious and secular—Jane and Emma presents an opportunity to talk about race, gender and religion in a healing and constructive way.”
Unlike other movies about the life of Joseph Smith, this movie discusses hard topics such as race inside and outside the Church, women and their important roles, as well as the controversial topic of polygamy and the impact it had on Emma Smith.
Arthur Van Wagenen, CEO of Excel Entertainment continued, “This is an opportunity to learn what we can do better as Americans when confronting ills in our own society today.”
“I was talking with a business partner, filmmaker, partner in crime friend about making a film,” Chantelle Squires, director of Jane and Emma said. “The conversation went, ‘we need to make a movie about women, by women, for women.’ And I looked at him and said, ‘Let’s do it.’”
Directed by Chantelle Squires, written by Melissa Leilani Larson, and produced by Jenn Lee Smith, Madeline Jorgensen, Tamu Smith and Zandra Vranes of Clearstone Films, Jane and Emma serves as a momentous achievement for female filmmakers, especially those who are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Jane and Emma received the ReFrame stamp of approval, an initiative made to recognize and promote gender-balanced films and television shows by using IMDBPro data to “analyze films and television series to see how many women were involved in the production, and how much screen time female characters had,” said Variety magazine.
“To earn the ReFrame Stamp, a film or TV show must meet a handful of requirements that call for women in key roles like starring, directing, producing, and writing. Additional points are awarded for having racial diversity.”
“Seeing Jane and Emma is the opportunity to see women’s roles [and] women’s place outside of the male perspective,” said Danielle Deadwyer, who portrays Jane in Jane and Emma. “We have to see more work about women and by women and how they’ve stepped through the world. Seeing this film will give you that opportunity.”
Racial diversity played a pivotal role both in the film, but also in the actual, real-life story. Jane had to endure race-based hardships, even from some members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints whose prejudice led them to believe the worst about Jane.
The film was also included in the Bustle article, “16 October 2018 Movies Written or Directed by Women that Should Be on Your Watch List.”
“[Jane and Emma] is giving you the opportunity to see how gutsy and bold and audacious and how much perseverance we have,” Danielle said. “What does it look like to be aggressive in a feminine body? That’s what this film can give you a conversation about.”