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Families Joined By Marriage are Unlikely Fit in 'Jumping The Broom'

Paula Patton and Laz Alonso in a scene from 'Jumping The Broom'

The bride's family is wealthy; the groom's is working class. If they can get through the wedding ceremony, the young couple may stand a chance. It's a new film about family secrets as well as cultural and economic differences within the African-American community. Alan Silverman has this look at Jumping The Broom.

"This is the broom that Mike and I jumped when we got married."
"Jason and I want to start our own traditions."
"It's just so…"
"I was going to say 'simple.'"

Many African-American wedding ceremonies end with the bride and groom jumping over a broomstick to begin their new life together. The custom dates back centuries to slavery and is believed to have roots in West Africa. But for Sabrina and Jason, whether or not to include the time-honored tradition in their wedding on Martha's Vineyard, an island retreat off Massachusetts, is a small detail considering the vast differences between their two families.

"Jason and I are in love, really in love."
"Jason makes a good impression, but we haven't met his family yet. What are they like?"
"I don't know. I haven't met them yet."

Loretta Devine, left, and Angela Bassett in a scene from "Jumping The Broom"
Loretta Devine, left, and Angela Bassett in a scene from "Jumping The Broom"

Mrs. Watson never lets her daughter, Sabrina, forget about their family's status and she is suspicious of Jason's humble background. Angela Bassett plays Mrs. Watson. She doesn't worry that her character's haughty attitude could alienate audiences.

"I don't pander for the audience to like me. If you don't like me, I think that's even a more interesting choice," Bassett says.

Far from the Watsons' island mansion, the Taylors live in New York where Jason's single mom worked at the local post office to put him through college.

"By now she should have come over here to Brooklyn to meet me. You will not believe it: she sent me a text message! A text message when she could pick up a phone and call me like I'm a human being. I don't play this way. Strike one."

Laz Alonso and Loretta Devine in "Jumping The Broom"
Laz Alonso and Loretta Devine in "Jumping The Broom"

Stage and screen veteran Loretta Devine co-stars as Mrs. Taylor, who seems determined to stop the wedding.

"I don't think she ever was dishonest with anybody in the film, and I think she really was driven to save her son because she really believed that he was in danger," explains Devine. "So that was what I tried to bring to it: a mother's love for her son."

The two families bring opposite views of the black American experience, but director Salim Akil believes the story is not only about ethnicity.

Scene from "Jumping The Broom"
Scene from "Jumping The Broom"

"In popular culture, there is this notion that African-American men and women can't get together and we're having these issues," Akil says. "I think it's an American problem because I know a lot of white women and men who are having just as many issues trying to find 'that person' as anyone. .... The conversation starts at 'how do we negotiate these relationships.'"

"Sometimes life will really test you."
"Oh, we'll pass. Reverend James, Jason was sent to me. He is my soul mate."
"Aww, that's so sweet; but even a soul mate can really test you."

Well-known black clergyman Bishop T.D. Jakes has a cameo in the film and, as a producer of Jumping The Broom, made sure it delivers his signature theme of uplifting spirituality. However, Paula Patton, who stars as the bride-to-be, insists the faith-based message never got in the way of telling a believable story with believable characters.

Paula Patton and Laz Alonso in "Jumping The Broom"
Paula Patton and Laz Alonso in "Jumping The Broom"

"The Taylors, that are from downtown, definitely could have gone into caricatures and stereotypical ways that they may behave," notes Patton. "And the same thing with the Watsons, who are 'uptown.' You could have seen them be too 'uppity' and you would not have seen the heart and the three-dimensional attributes. We are all human beings. We come from different places, but we needed to speak to the honesty of these people and if the humor comes, then it comes."

Jumping The Broom
does use a luxurious mansion on Martha's Vineyard for the wedding venue. But most of the film was shot in the Canadian province of Nova Scotia where the rugged coastline looks similar, but the tax credits for film production are far more generous.