How do you follow up Moonlight? If you’re Barry Jenkins, it’s by tackling one of America’s great black literary icons, James Baldwin.
Jenkins’ next feature film project will be an adaptation of Baldwin’s novel If Beale Street Could Talk, according to The Hollywood Reporter. The novel is a love story that follows a young couple, Fonny and Tish, in 1970s Harlem. It’s told primarily through Tish’s eyes. When Fonny gets falsely accused of raping another woman, a pregnant Tish begins a desperate search to exonerate her lover before her baby is born.
It’s a complicated story, but one that Jenkins has shown himself capable of undertaking. Moonlight was a tender, nuanced coming-of-age film that followed a young black man in the projects of Miami coming to terms with his sexuality and his manhood. Not only was the film a critical hit, but it made $28.6 million internationally—a feat once considered unheard of.
According to THR, Jenkins has been working closely with the Baldwin estate on this project for quite some time. The Beale Street screenplay he wrote dates back to 2013, the same summer he wrote Moonlight.
Baldwin’s sister, Gloria Karefa-Smart said in a statment, “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.”
Added Jenkins: “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.
Jenkins hailed the news on Twitter:
Beale Street has been adapted into a movie previously: a 1998 French film titled À la place du coeur (“Where the heart is”). Jenkins is also working on another adaption—this one for TV—based on Colson Whitehead’s Pulitzer Prize-winning work, The Underground Railroad.