Although his directorial debut came in the form of 2008's Medicine for Melancholy, if you asked cinephiles a year ago who Barry Jenkins was, I guarantee that you'd receive no response from many of them. That all changed with the release of Moonlight, a truly revolutionary movie that put a spotlight on Jenkins by garnering critical acclaim and ultimately winning the Oscar for Best Picture. While Moonlight represented the breakout moment for a variety of stars, including Mahershala Ali, Trevante Rhodes, and Ashton B. Sanders, the real star of the show was Jenkins, who was praised throughout the season for his warmth and genuine humanity, as well as his incredible vision for the film. Jenkins, even more than La La Land director Damien Chazelle, became the favorite on the Oscar circuit. After the A24 indie shockingly won Best Picture, everyone turned their attention to what Jenkins would do next. And while he directed an episode of Dear White People this year and is also set to helm an adaptation of The Underground Railroad for television, earlier this week, we received our first word on what Jenkins' next big-screen project will be.
Barry Jenkins is set to direct an adaptation of If Beale Street Could Talk, the 1974 novel by iconic author James Baldwin. The film will be released by Annapurna, the new distributor who has been taking on a variety of high-profile projects, including next month's Detroit from director Kathryn Bigelow. According to early reports, Jenkins has been wanting to direct this film for years, having spent a good deal of time working with the Baldwin estate to secure the rights to the novel. If Beale Street Could Talk is the story of Tish, a pregnant woman attempting to exonerate her young fiance when he is accused of rape. The result is a race against time, with Tish trying to bring about justice in 1970s Harlem. Baldwin's sister, Gloria Karefa-Smart, had this to say about the project: "We are delighted to entrust Barry Jenkins with this adaptation. Barry is a sublimely conscious and gifted filmmaker, whose 'Medicine for Melancholy' impressed us so greatly that we had to work with him."
Meanwhile, Jenkins had this to say about taking on the project: "James Baldwin is a man of and ahead of his time; his interrogations of the American consciousness have remained relevant to this day. To translate the power of Tish and Fonny's love to the screen in Baldwin's image is a dream I've long held dear. Working alongside the Baldwin estate, I'm excited to finally make that dream come true." To produce the project, Jenkins will reunite with PASTEL and Plan B, two companies that helped to produce Moonlight as well. The film is shooting for an October production start.
While I'm not familiar with the novel (I really should read some Baldwin, as well as watch I Am Not Your Negro), I can't help but be excited for another film from Barry Jenkins. After Moonlight, I have complete faith in his ability to consistently deliver great movies. This will certainly be one of the most anticipated cinephile events of 2018. And who knows, with Damien Chazelle's First Man also set to hit theaters in the fall of that year, maybe we'll see a repeat of one of the greatest Oscar races of all time.
Variety originally reported the news. Additional details from The Hollywood Reporter.
Image courtesy of A24