I doubt that an intro to Barry Jenkins is necessary at this point, given how closely we’ve followed his journey since his charming feature film debut Medicine For Melancholy in 2008 – wow, it’s been almost 4 years! Time flies!
Since then, Barry has directed a number of short films commissioned by various organizations, from Bloomingdales to ITVS Futurestates, and most recently Borscht Corp.
All 3 shorts have been featured on S&A.
On the feature film front, Barry is one of 4 filmmakers attached to an adaptation of the graphic novel, A Contract With God And Other Tenement Stories, published in 1978 by the late cartoonist, Will Eisner – each directing one of the four short stories the book tells: A Contract With God, The Super, The Street Singer, and Cookalein.
All 4 stories, said to be semi-autobiographical, are mostly set in a Bronx tenement in the 1930s, and are centered on common themes of first-generation immigrant experiences, across different cultures.
Barry is tackling The Super.
This was a project initially announced in 2010, and my last update on it was last summer, when it was announced that the film was still very much in play, and that they were closer than ever to getting it launched, after what had been a tumultous year.
Fast-forward to this week, when I learned of another feature film project that Barry is also developing. Details are scarce at the moment, but what I do know he’s working with award-winning African American playwright Tarell Alvin McCraney on what is being described as a triptych feature about Liberty City that is being produced by Borscht Corp (who were also behind Barry’s short film Chorophyl).
Understandably, Barry isn’t keen on revealing much about the collaboration – not yet anyway – likely not until it’s fully secured.
I did ask him for further details, and all he was willing to share is that it’s Tarell’s story (not as in autobiographical, but rather “it’s his voice” as Barry stated); He also added that he and Tarell, both about the same age, grew up blocks from each other, and he read an early version of the script, which he says was “halfway between the stage and the screen” and Borstch Corp stepped in to see how they could solidify it as a screen project.
Tarell, a graduate of Yale School of Drama, is currently rewriting the script which Barry says is very much in the spirit of his plays, exploring similar themes.
Most recently, Tarell’s The Brother/Sister Plays – a breakthrough trilogy of new plays on modern-day coming-of-age stories of kinship, love, and heartache, set in the bayou of Louisiana and loosely draw on, broadly, Yoruba mythology – have been produced in theaters across the country, including in my neck of the woods (NYC); and although I didn’t attend, words like “gritty,” “lyrical,” “urban” and “mythic” have been used to describe the trilogy of works.
So whatever he, Barry and Borstch have cooking here is most certainly a curiosity, and I look forward to learning more as the project progresses.
I think I speak for many of you when I say that we appreciate Barry’s cinematic vision, and continue to anxiously await his next feature film, whatever it will be.