It’s a thrilling time to be in movies, says the Oscar-winning director of If Beale Street Could Talk. He talks to playwright Roy Williams about his sky-high hopes for the next generation
“So, you saw the film?” Barry Jenkins is eager to ask the minute we are introduced. He gives good eye contact through those stylish thick-rimmed glasses – not the big-time, Oscar-winning writer-director speaking, but a nervous artist, anxious about the new work he is starting to screen. I love it, I tell him. If Beale Street Could Talk may be only Jenkins’ third feature-length film, but it has already been nominated for three Oscars (best adapted screenplay, best supporting actress, best score), just two years after his Moonlight walked away with the Academy Award for best film. A passionate film about race and love, it’s an added pleasure to see black characters of such complexity on the big screen. British film industry, kindly take note.
Adapted from James Baldwin’s 1974 novel, Beale Street tells the story of a young black couple in 1970s Harlem. When Tish (KiKi Layne) becomes pregnant, they plan to marry – until her fiance Fonny (Stephan James) is set up by a racist police officer for a rape he did not commit. The film explores the different reactions of their siblings and parents, led by Regina King in a standout performance as Tish’s mother, as they fight for Fonny’s freedom.
Barry Jenkins: ‘When you climb the ladder, you send it back down’