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Barry Jenkins to Follow ‘Moonlight’ With a James Baldwin Work


Barry Jenkins, an Oscar-winning writer and director, is working on a film adaptation of Baldwin’s “If Beale Street Could Talk.”

Jordan Strauss/Invision, via Jordan Strauss, via Invision, via Associated Press

The writer and director Barry Jenkins, whose film “Moonlight” won the Academy Award for best picture this year, has his next screen project lined up: An adaptation of James Baldwin’s novel “If Beale Street Could Talk.”

Mr. Jenkins has been circling the Baldwin story for years, telling Esquire that he wrote the script for “Beale Street” in 2013 in Berlin at the same time he was developing “Moonlight.” He didn’t have the commercial rights to Baldwin’s work then but decided to press ahead anyway with the writing.

Mr. Baldwin’s novel, published in 1974, traces the story of two characters named Tish and Fonny living in Harlem, N.Y. Fonny is falsely accused of rape and incarcerated; Tish then learns that she is pregnant with Fonny’s child. Joyce Carol Oates, reviewing the book for the Times, praised it as “a quite moving and very traditional celebration of love.” She wrote, “It is so vividly human and so obviously based upon reality, that it strikes us as timeless.”

Mr. Jenkins, in a statement released Monday, said: “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.”

Mr. Jenkins has been busy since the Oscars, when he and Tarell Alvin McCraney also won the award for best adapted screenplay for “Moonlight.” Mr. Jenkins is also working on a television series adaptation of Colson Whitehead’s National Book Award-winning novel “The Underground Railroad.” Mr. Jenkins will write and direct the series for Amazon.

“If Beale Street Could Talk” is slated to start production in October with Annapurna Pictures, in partnership with Pastel and Plan B. Variety first reported details about the project.

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