Poetry In Motion: Barry Jenkins to Direct Alvin Ailey Biopic

Barry Jenkins attends the 27th annual Elton John AIDS Foundation Academy Awards Viewing Party celebrating EJAF and the 91st Academy Awards on February 24, 2019 in West Hollywood, California.
Photo: Amy Sussman (Getty Images)

Barry Jenkins has a new project in the works and I’m about to 8-count my coins and hand over my wallet so he can hurry up and take my money.

Jenkins has been confirmed as the director of an untitled Fox Searchlight film based on the life and works of acclaimed choreographer and activist, Alvin Ailey.

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Searchlight made a deal early last year with the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater which granted full cooperation from the organization that controls the rights to Ailey’s choreography. The package also included the rights to Jennifer Dunning’s seminal biography Alvin Ailey: A Life In Dance. Fox Searchlight and the producers will be working closely with Artistic Director Robert Battle and Artistic Director Emerita, Judith Jamison, to bring Ailey’s story and choreography to the screen.

The untitled film will be penned by Julian Breece (The First, When They See Us) with Judy Kinberg, Adele Romanski, Rachel Cohen, and Alicia Keys serving as producers. Jenkins will also hop on as executive producer with Jana Edelbaum and Susan Lewis.

“Judith Jamison and I are thrilled that Academy Award-winner Barry Jenkins will be directing Fox Searchlight’s major motion picture on Alvin Ailey, an American trailblazer who broke down barriers and opened doors for others,” Battle stated in a press release. “It’s also very meaningful that Barry—someone who grew up just streets away from me in Liberty City and who, like Alvin Ailey, knows personally how the arts can change lives—will be bringing this seminal story to the screen.”

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Jenkins, of course, is an Oscar-winning writer for his adapted Moonlight screenplay. The film also infamously went on to when the biggest prize of the night, Best Picture, in a last-minute upset. The Ailey connection with his works is already there, as Battle choreographed a Moonlight-inspired short film for the dance company in 2017, shortly before Jenkins’ Oscar wins. This biopic news is also a bout of cosmic timing, as Ailey is celebrating its 60th anniversary, culminating with its Lincoln Center engagement in New York City, June 12-16.

Given Jenkins’ stunningly poetic work in films such as Moonlight and If Beale Street Could Talk, I can’t imagine a more perfect choice of helmer. This is going to be gorgeous in so many ways. Again—hurry up and take my money.

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Tonja Renée Stidhum

Staff Writer, Entertainment at The Root. Sugar, spice & everything rice. Equipped with the uncanny ability to make a Disney reference and a double entendre in the same sentence.