Excel Entertainment—a wholly-owned subsidiary of Deseret Book Company, is the preeminent independent film distribution company in Utah, and has released more than 40 successful films since 2000. Today, Excel is releasing its official trailer to the upcoming feature film JANE & EMMA, opening October 12, 2018 in limited theatrical release. Sparking a public conversation about racism, polygamy, gender, and the Mormon Church, the film tells the true story of two women—a free-born African-American woman and a wife of a controversial religious leader—whose unlikely bond of friendship gave them the strength to withstand grave challenges on the night Mormon founder Joseph Smith was murdered by a mob in 1844.

“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.”

Filmed on location in Salt Lake City, Utah and Nauvoo, Illinois, JANE & EMMA tells the story of two women (Jane Manning James and Emma Smith) who forged an unlikely friendship against the backdrop of race, religion and gender issues in 1844. Jane as one of the first black members of the Mormon church and Emma Smith as the wife of the Mormon Prophet Joseph Smith, come together to survive a perilous night after Joseph is murdered by a mob in Carthage jail.

FILM SYNOPSIS: JANE & EMMA is based on the life of Sister Jane Manning, one of the first black Mormons. She returns to Nauvoo to find that Joseph Smith, her prophet and friend, has been assassinated. Jane spends a ceaseless night with his widow, Emma Smith, sitting watch over the body of the prophet as a whirlwind of loss and confusion leaves them wondering how either one of them will be able to move forward. Through the long night, Jane wonders if the prophet’s promise to extend the blessings of eternity to her has died along with him. The film explores the possible events of that night, including Jane’s endeavor to remain amongst the Mormon people and Emma’s struggle to cope with her heartbreaking loss. Poignant issues of racism and polygamy threaten to break their bond of friendship. In the end, will Jane and Emma have the courage to follow the path each believes they must take?

The JANE + EMMA cast includes Danielle Deadwyler as Jane (THE HAVES AND THE HAVE NOTS, GIFTED), Emily Goss as Emma Smith (THE HOUSE ON PINE STREET, SNAPSHOTS), Brad Schmidt as Joseph Smith (THE BIRTH OF A NATION, HOUSE OF LIES), and K. Danor Gerald as Isaac James (SAINTS AND SOLDIERS, THE VOID)

JANE & EMMA is directed by Chantelle Squires (THE WORK & THE GLORY trilogy) and written by Melissa Leilani Larson (FREETOWN). It is produced by Jenn Lee Smith, Madeline Jorgenson, and Tamu Smith and Zandra Vranes (Sistas in Zion) of Clearstone Films. The Executive Producers are Brent Jorgensen, Sundance Film Festival Co-Founder Stirling VanWagenen, and Jon Lear.

The movie also features the title song “Child of God,” performed by The Bonner Family.


Clearstone Films is a Utah-based, woman-owned production company known for Reserve to Fight, an award-winning national PBS documentary, and The Generations Project, an award-winning, multi-part documentary series for BYUTV. Its first narrative feature film, JANE & EMMA, is due in theaters October 12, 2018.

Excel Entertainment, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Deseret Book Company, is the preeminent independent film distribution company in Utah. Since 2000, Excel has released more than 40 successful films. Well-known for telling Mormon stories (GOD’S ARMY, THE WORK & THE GLORY SERIES, 17 MIRACLES, PRIDE & PREJUDICE), Excel has also had success with films with non-Mormon themes and stories (FOREVER STRONG, SAINTS & SOLDIERS, JUST LET GO, THE COKEVILLE MIRACLE). Excel exists to tell stories that challenge us to live up to the light that is within each of us, bringing hope and inspiration to audiences worldwide.