American novelist James Baldwin sits in front of his typewriter in the study of his home in St. Paul de Vence on March 21, 1983
Photo: AP Photo

Barry Jenkins, director of Moonlight, which snagged 2017’s Best Picture Oscar, is back with If Beale Street Could Talk, based on James Baldwin’s 1974 novel.

On what would have been Jimmy’s 94th birthday, Jenkins paid tribute to the Harlem-bred novelist and social activist by releasing the film’s trailer on Thursday.

“For me, August 2nd has always been a day to pay tribute, so . . . a teaser of what’s to come. Happy Birthday, Jimmy,” Jenkins wrote on Twitter.

As reported by Vogue:

If Beale Street Could Talk is a love story set in Harlem, one that quickly devolves into tragedy when the young protagonists, Fonny and Tish, are threatened by false accusations of rape against Fonny by another woman. Once Tish finds out that she is pregnant, she and her family must race to exonerate Fonny before their child is born.

The trailer cuts from Tish sitting down with her mother (Regina King) to ostensibly deliver the news that she is pregnant, to scenes of the drama that ensues, including a shot of the racist policeman who wants to put Fonny away. A voiceover recording of Baldwin says, “When I was growing up, I was trying to make a connection between the life I saw and the life I lived.” Kiki Layne and Stephan James star as Fonny and Tish; Teyonah Parris, King, and Brian Tyree Henry are supporting.


Jenkins told The Root in July that he wanted to bring Baldwin’s sensibility to the film.

“James Baldwin was raised in Harlem, so he knows how we speak and we didn’t want to shy away from that in translating this book to screen,” Jenkins said.


A-List actresses Regina King and Aunjanue Ellis will also star in the film.

“Love is the biggest takeaway. This film is born in tragedy,” Stephen James said to The Root. “This movie will show you all that life can take you through, dragging you through the mud and still there’s love on the other side.”

Ms. Bronner Helm is the Deputy Editorial Director at Colorlines. Mouthy Black Girl. Rosalynn Carter Mental Health Fellow. Shea Butter Feminist. Virgo Sun, Aries Moon.

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