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Barry Jenkins Set to Direct Fox Searchlight’s Alvin Ailey Biopic

The Oscar winner will return to the big screen with a fresh look at the celebrated American choreographer.

Barry Jenkins, by Daniel Bergeron. Indiewire 2016. No PR/No Release on file.

Barry Jenkins

Daniel Remi Bergeron

Oscar winner Barry Jenkins is preparing his return to the big screen after last year’s “If Beale Street Could Talk.” Deadline reports that the “Moonlight” and “Medicine for Melancholy” filmmaker has been set to direct Fox Searchlight’s currently untitled film based on the life of celebrated choreographer Alvin Ailey.

The outlet reports that the speciality hub of Fox struck a deal with the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater just last year, “which granted full cooperation from the organization that controls the rights to Ailey’s choreography.” The package also includes the rights to Jennifer Dunning’s biography “Alvin Ailey: A Life In Dance.” Searchlight and the film’s producers will reportedly work closely with Artistic Director Robert Battle and Artistic Director Emerita, Judith Jamison, “to bring Ailey’s story and choreography to the screen.”

Rising screenwriter Julian Breece will write the script for the film. The “Buppies” creator most recently wrote the first two episodes of Ava DuVernay’s Central Park Five miniseries “When They See Us,” which hit Netlix just last week. Judy Kinberg, Adele Romanski, Rachel Cohen, and Alicia Keys are producing the feature. Jenkins will be executive producer alongside Jana Edelbaum and Susan Lewis.

Ailey, who passed away in 1989, was a celebrated African-American choreographer and activist who founded the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater (which is still going strong in NYC) and the Ailey School in New York City. Ailey helped popularize modern dance, and his “Revelations” is widely considered to be best known modern dance piece in history.

He was born in Rodgers, Texas in the middle of the Great Depression, and his family eventually moved to Los Angeles in search of better opportunities. In his teenage years, he became an acolyte of dancer Lester Horton, who helped foster his love of dance.

In 1977, he was awarded the Spingarn Medal from the NAACP, and he received the Kennedy Center Honors one year before his passing. In 2014, President Barack Obama selected Ailey to be a posthumous recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Jenkins recently wrote a new script for “Twelve,” the Angel Manuel Soto-directed feature adaptation of the documentary “12 O’Clock Boys.” He will next direct Amazon Prime’s “The Underground Railroad” television series, based on Colson Whitehead’s book of the same name. The series will star Joel Edgerton, Thuso Mbedu, Chase W. Dillon, and Aaron Pierre.

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