Barry Jenkins Sat Down With Us To Discuss “If Beale Street Could Talk” And I'm At A Loss For Words

Hakeem Adewumi, Annapurna

And boy, did he deliver. I could listen to him talk for hours, and now you can too!

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What inspired you to adapt James Baldwin’s novel into a movie?


BJ: One, I’ve been inspired by his work for many, many years – since I was a very young person – and, when I read this book in particular, I saw these two voices that Mr. Baldwin spoke with: one voice that’s obsessed with sensuality, romance, interpersonal relationships, and the other voice that’s just as obsessed about systemic injustice. In this book, those two voices were perfectly, organically fused.


How were you able to turn James Baldwin’s written work into visual images?

Hakeem Adewumi, Annapurna Pictures

BJ: Sometimes, when you’re adapting [a novel, not every] word makes it into the film, but they reveal themselves as imagery. Sometimes, you’ll take a passage that Mr. Baldwin’s has written very sparsely or very densely and, I think, sometimes the very sparse descriptions become very robust images.


What was it like working with Regina King?

BuzzFeed, Annapurna Pictures

BJ: It was awesome – she’s an empath, so when she leaves a role, leaves a character, she takes so much of that energy with her…It was lovely to see someone so seasoned still work in this way that was so alive, and in someways, very raw, and yet, always bringing this energy and this empathy from these other characters in her past to the character that’s in front of her. It’s why, I think, when you watch her performance, you see your mom, you see your aunt, you see your cousin, you see your grandma, you see the woman down the block who used to help you…you see all those people rolled up into one.


What do you want people to take away from the film?

BuzzFeed, Annapurna Pictures

BJ: One, I hope that they leave with an obsession with the work of James Baldwin. James Baldwin is someone who wrote very evocatively, very poetically, about some very real things. In our film, we pair a very romantic love story with some very real things about the issues that black folks face, in this country, in their every day lives, and so I hope people will walk out with a grounded sense of optimism. Love and family and community are these things that somehow allow all our characters to weather all these storms that they face and I hope that people leave the theater…[feeling like] in their personal lives, love, family, and community are these very grounding forces that can help is weather all these storms.

Hakeem Adewumi, Annapurna Pictures