BYU hosted a preliminary screening for “Jane and Emma” on Sept. 14 in the Varsity Theater. The showing was followed by a panel discussion on the film with director Chantelle Squires and members of the BYU Black Student Union club.
“Jane and Emma” follows the story of a “born free” black Latter-day Saint woman named Jane Manning set against the martyrdom of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints founder and prophet, Joseph Smith, Jr.
Manning was baptized into the church in its early days and became close friends with the Smith family, particularly Emma Smith.
The film’s plot explores Manning and Emma Smith’s relationship and the struggles they faced. The plot for the film was inspired by select accounts of the life of Manning, including letters she had written and the Smith family’s personal accounts.
“About 40 percent of the film is pulled from our research, almost word for word,” Squires said.
The film explores early church history topics including early black saints, racism and polygamy.
During the panel discussion, a few BYU students commented on the film and how it handles race issues.
“I hope it opens conversation where there’s truly honest dialogue. I want members to see themselves in Jane,” said BYU panelist Melodie Jackson.
Squires also discussed her vision for the film and her desire to unify those who watch it.
“It’s so real for so many people and I hope it opens peoples’ hearts and souls so we can eventually become one,” she said.
Executive Producer Sterling Van Wagenen said he hopes the film has a profound impact on the Latter-day Saint community and the larger community.
Squires also said he hopes the film will provide comfort for “people who have been harmed” and “will bring healing about.”
“Jane and Emma” will open in theaters Oct. 12.