In December, as filmmaker Otoja Abit was editing his first feature film — a Christmas movie — a scandal was erupting around the Hallmark Channel because execs had pulled an ad that showed two brides kissing. While the network, which is known for its cheesy-romantic holiday fare, reversed its stance and put the ad back …
In December, as filmmaker Otoja Abit was editing his first feature film — a Christmas movie — a scandal was erupting around the Hallmark Channel because execs had pulled an ad that showed two brides kissing. While the network, which is known for its cheesy-romantic holiday fare, reversed its stance and put the ad back on the air, the uproar resonated with Abit.
“I realized my movie has all of the elements that Hallmark looks for,” the 35-year-old Queens native told The Post. “But it’s gritty and urban. Also, the leads are black and Latino. And the real romance is between two women.”
In “A New York Christmas Wedding,” which is playing online through Sunday as part of the American Black Film Festival, a Yuletide angel shows Jennifer Ortiz (played by Nia Fairweather) what could have been, if she hadn’t pursued her rich Manhattanite boyfriend (played by Abit) but instead followed her secret feelings for her best friend in working-class Queens.
And all of that is exactly what drew Chris Noth — aka Mr. Big from “Sex and the City” — to co-produce and co-star in the film.
“It’s an alternative Hallmark movie, which I love,” Noth told The Post. “It’s not a Lifetime movie. They wouldn’t have the courage to make a movie like this. Otoja was able to bring freshness and insight into a timeworn genre.”
The two met in 2010 on the Broadway set of “That Championship Season,” which starred Kiefer Sutherland, Noth, Jim Gaffigan and Jason Patric. Abit, who played hoops at St. John’s University, was hired as an assistant director and grew close with the cast.
“After the play, Kiefer did [the film] ‘The Reluctant Fundamentalist’ and brought me along to run lines with him. Chris was on ‘The Good Wife,’ and I would assist him. I got my commercial agent through Jim’s referral.” Patric, meanwhile, co-starred in Abit’s 2018 debut short film, “Jitters,” about a man on the verge of marriage taking stock of his past loves, which inspired “A New York Christmas Wedding.”
“They really took me under their wing,” said Abit of the big-name stars.
Noth signed on as both a producer and actor in the major role of Father Kelly, a priest wrestling with whether or not to officiate the same-sex marriage.
The movie, which co-stars Tyra Ferrell from “Boyz N the Hood,” was made in 14 days last August on a shoestring budget and filmed all over New York City, including the subway, at churches and apartment buildings, and on the streets of Middle Village and Forrest Hills, Queens.
“It really took a lot, and he did it and he did it with grace and hard work, and he pulled it off,” said Noth of Abit. “I think it’s a beautiful-looking film.”
Noth and Abit hope audiences agree. The film will be making the rounds at other virtual movie festivals this fall, including Urbanworld, Martha’s Vineyard African-American Film Festival and The New York Latino Film Festival. Abit said he didn’t set out to make a genre-bending movie, but he thinks society is primed for it.
“It’s a love story, not pushing an LBGT narrative,” he said. “People are craving diverse artists and stories. It’s a feel-good movie, but we shake up the narrative a bit.”