Barry Jenkins To Follow ‘Moonlight’ With ‘If Beale Street Could Talk’

For many directors it can be difficult to find the right project, especially when your most recent film is a breakaway, award-winning success. But it didn’t take Moonlight director Barry Jenkins terribly long to settle on his next project. In fact, he’s been working on it since 2013.

Oscar-winner Barry Jenkins has announced that his next project will be If Beale Street Could Talk, based on the 1974 novel by James Baldwin (via Coming Soon). It is the story of Tish, a pregnant woman, engaged to be married, whose lover has been falsely accused of rape. The drama follows Tish as she fights to prove her fiancé’s innocence before their child is born.

Barry Jenkins adapted If Beale Street Could Talk four years ago, during a creative period that also gave birth to the screenplay for Moonlight. The filmmaker spent the years that followed trying to convince James Baldwin’s estate to let him make the film, but even though the announcement comes just a few short months after a Best Picture win for Moonlight, it was actually one of Jenkins’ earlier films that earned him the right to adapt If Beale Street Could Talk.

A24

A24

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“We are delighted to entrust Barry Jenkins with this adaptation, Gloria Karefa-Smart, James Baldwin’s sister, explains. “Barry is a sublimely conscious and gifted filmmaker, whose Medicine for Melancholy impressed us so greatly that we had to work with him.”

“James Baldwin is a man of and ahead of his time, Barry Jenkins said in an official statement. “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.”

Few filmmakers ever accomplish what Barry Jenkins has accomplished with Moonlight. The experimental drama tells the story of a gay black man’s life told in three different chapters, in three different stages of his development, by three different actors, and earned not only universal acclaim, but also the Academy Award for Best Picture, unseating – at the last possible minute – the sentimental crowdpleaser La La Land.

In other words, any project that Barry Jenkins could possibly have taken on after Moonlight would have become one of the most anticipated movies on the horizon. But to discover that Barry Jenkins is not only adapting the work of James Baldwin, but that the screenplay also emerged from the same creative spurt that gave us Moonlight, is enough to make a serious cinephile giddy.

Production on If Beale Street Could Talk is expected to begin in October. As of this writing, no release date has been set.

Top Photo: Jason LaVeris/FilmMagic

William Bibbiani (everyone calls him ‘Bibbs’) is Crave’s film content editor and critic. You can hear him every week on The B-Movies Podcast and Canceled Too Soon, and watch him on the weekly YouTube series What the Flick. Follow his rantings on Twitter at @WilliamBibbiani.