TO CELEBRATE JAMES BALDWIN’S BIRTHDAY, Barry Jenkins shared the trailer for “If Beale Street Could Talk” on Twitter. He wrote, “For me, August 2nd has always been a day to pay tribute, so… a teaser of what’s to come. Happy Birthday, Jimmy 🙏🏿🙌🏿♥️”

Baldwin was born Aug. 2, 1924, and he published “If Beale Street Could Talk,” his fifth novel, in 1974.

Jenkins has had his mind on “Beale Street” for years. He wrote an adaptation of the Baldwin book during the same period that he penned “Moonlight” (2016), the Oscar-winning film he directed and co-wrote.

“Beale Street” is a dramatic love story set in 1970s Harlem. It centers around Tish and Fonny, a young couple whose world is turned upside down when he is falsely accused of a crime and lands in jail. Meanwhile, she learns she is pregnant. The film stars newcomer Kiki Layne (Tish) and Stephan James (Fonny), who played Jesse Owens in “Race” and John Lewis in “Selma.” The cast also includes Regina King, who portrays Tish’s mother, and Brian Tyree Henry (Paper Boi on “Atlanta”).

The trailer strings together scenes of tension, sorrow, and passionate connections. Baldwin’s voice fuels the arresting images. In a voice over he says: “When I was growing up, I was trying to make a connection between the life I saw and the life I lived. …There are days when you wonder what your role is in this country, and what your future is in it. This is one of them.”

The director’s approach to the forthcoming project appears similar to his vision for “Moonlight”—challenging story, breakout talent, gorgeous film.

Jenkins talked with Esquire magazine about his desire to bring “Beale Street” to the big screen. The interview was published in January 2017, after “Moonlight” won the Golden Globe for Best Picture, but before it nabbed the Oscar in the same category. He said:

    This was actually the same trip I wrote Moonlight. Beale Street I wrote in Berlin. Moonlight I wrote in Belgium. I wrote it without the rights because again, in some ways, it was a reaction to putting so much energy in the commercial company. No matter how much you convince yourself, that kind of work purely about making money. I said, Well, I’m going to just do exactly what I want to do. I love this book. I love this play. I’m going to write those things, and I’ll fucking figure it out after. Yeah, I mean, here it is three years later. I still don’t have the rights to the book, as I shouldn’t. Mr. Baldwin’s only been adapted once. This would only be the second time. It’s a big deal. It’s a big responsibility. But because of the success of Moonlight in the marketplace, the estate has seen the film. And I think in that film they can see my intentions with Beale Street, so it’s on the horizon. I don’t have the rights, but it’s on the horizon.

“If Beale Street Could Talk” premieres at the Toronto International Film Festival next month, and will be in theaters on Nov. 30, 2018. CT


Barry Jenkins’s latest film is adapted from “If Beale Street Could Talk,” James Baldwin’s fifth novel, which was first published in 1974. “I Am Not Your Negro” accompanies the Raoul Peck film inspired by Baldwin’s published and unpublished work.


The voice of James Baldwin propels the dramatic trailer for Barry Jenkins’s adaptation of the acclaimed author’s novel. | Video by Annapurna Films


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