It was announced earlier this week that the 56th annual New York Film Festival will be extending its invitation to two new titles, this year: the Coen Brothers’ Ballad of Buster Scruggs and the movie that already has everyone talking, Barry Jenkins’ If Beale Street Could Talk. This news comes as a good surprise considering that the film was due to make its public debut on November 30th.
When asked about the criteria for this year’s festival, Chairman Kent Jones replied: "It’s become increasingly tough to do serious work that is beholden to nothing but the filmmaker’s need to express emotions in this form in moving images and sound. So if I were pressed to choose one word to describe the films in this year’s main slate, it would be bravery.”
Bravery is most certainly a theme of James Baldwin’s novel of the same name. “I’ll tell you a story, if I may…” is how the tale begins—a tale of young love in 1970s Harlem. Alonzo "Fonny" Hunt (played by Stephan James) and Tish Rivers (Kiki Layne) are enjoying their recent engagement when, suddenly, their lives are turned upside-down by a racist cop’s false rape accusation. Both their relationship and their characters are tested as Tish—now pregnant—tries to exonerate Fonny before the baby arrives. In a crucial combination of swoon-worthy romanticism and potent drama, the story addresses complex sociological issues of justice, identity and interpersonal connections—much like Moonlight, the director’s preceding critically acclaimed film.
Jenkins has been working on this production for a long time and, according to the director, he had actually written the screenplay for both motion pictures in the same summer of 2013. In fact, it was revealed that this production had long been in the works with the director writing the screenplays for both films in the same summer of 2013. Since then, Barry Jenkins has worked closely with the Baldwin estate in putting the script and the cast together. The result? An incredibly talented supporting cast of Regina King (American Crime), Brian Tyree Henry (Hotel Artemis), Diego Luna (Rogue One: A Star Wars Story) and Pedro Pascal (Game of Thrones).
The film, whose trailer was released on what would’ve been James Baldwin’s 94th birthday, has all the ingredients for yet another award-winning production. See it for yourself at the 56th Annual New York Film Festival, which will be taking place between September 28 and October 14.
Watch the trailer of If Beale Street Could Talk, below.