In honor of what would’ve been James Baldwin’s 94th birthday, Academy Award-winning director Barry Jenkins (Moonlight) has shared a teaser of his latest project, If Beale Street Could Talk, which is based on the author’s 1974 novel of the same name.
The trailer features the two main stars, Stephan James and KiKi Layne, as a young couple in New York City in the '70s. In the book, they are named Fonny and Tish, and the plot involves a pregnant Tish working tirelessly with her family and her lawyer to exonerate Fonny after he is wrongly accused of rape and thrown in jail. In 2015, critic Stacia L. Brown wrote that the novel “belongs to a collection of literature that seeks to humanize black men through their relationships with parents, lovers, siblings, and children” as it “swan-dives from optimism to bleakness and rises from the ash of dashed hopes."
Jenkins wrote the Beale Street screenplay at around the same time that he wrote Moonlight, in 2013. Besides James and Layne, the cast includes Regina King, Brian Tyree Henry (Atlanta), Teyonah Parris (Dear White People, Chi-Raq), Colman Domingo (Fear The Waking Dead, Selma), and Dave Franco.
The trailer makes use of recordings of James Baldwin’s actual voice. He says the following: “When I was growing up, I was trying to make a connection between the life I saw and the life I lived. There are days when you wonder what your role is in this country and what your future is in it. This is one of them.”
The movie will hit theaters on November 30 after premiering at the Toronto International Film Festival in September.