The Big Issue : Edition 580
THEBIGISSUE.ORG.AU 8–21 FEB 2019 35 newcomer KiKi Layne, his Beale Street arrives at a time of renewed interest in Baldwin, sparked by the release of Raoul Peck’s I Am Not Your Negro (2017). Based on Baldwin’s unfinished memoir, the critically acclaimed documentary demonstrated the continued relevance of his commentary on the form and function of racism in America; how little has changed in the 30 years since his passing. “I loved it,” Jenkins says of I Am Not Your Negro. “I thought Raoul had done a wonderful job.” What’s more, the timing was “very fortunate”. “Through that documentary,” he continues, “many people who maybe would not have known about James Baldwin learned who he was. It almost served as an introduction to him, at least through a cinematic prism.” Jenkins’ Oscar-nominated screenplay adheres closely to the source material, save for its final scene (which I won’t spoil for you). “We filmed the ending of the book as is,” Jenkins says, “but what’s satisfying on the page isn’t necessarily what’s satisfying when you’re watching a film.” Crafting his own ending was a balancing act: “I was searching for a way to honour the aesthetic contract of the novel,” he says, “and yet also pay due respect to the optimism and the hope that I found in KiKi and Stephan’s performance, and the resilience of Regina King’s character, Sharon [Tish’s mother].” The film is a sensuous and atmospheric affair, thanks in large part to the cinematography of James Laxton, who also shot Moonlight and Medicine for Melancholy. He bathes Harlem in a golden light; the neighbourhood appears practically suspended in amber. The languorous visuals are tempered by a stirring score of brass and strings (also Oscar-nominated), composed by Nicholas Britell – another Moonlight alumnus. Asked whether he felt intimidated by the idea of following up Moonlight – whose significance was augmented by its status as the first Best Picture winner with an entirely black cast, as well as being the first to explore LGBTIQ identity – Jenkins replies, surprisingly, in the negative. “It was huge in a certain way,” he explains, “but making Moonlight was much scarier, much more daunting, than making Beale Street, because so much time had passed between that film and my first.” Thanks to Moonlight’s success, Jenkins could approach his next film with confidence. “Going into Beale Street,” he says, “I don’t know, it just felt right.” A reflective pause. “I wasn’t questioning my place as a filmmaker, and I wasn’t questioning the viability of my career.” I’d bet no-one else was either. by Keva York (@karma__barnes) » If Beale Street Could Talk is in cinemas 14 February. REGINA KING AS SHARON, THE MOTHER OF TISH. (LEFT) FONNY (STEPHAN JAMES) AND TISH (KIKI LAYNE) SHARE A MOMENT. (ABOVE) BARRY JENKINS DOES SOME DIRECTING. IF BEALE STREET COULD TALK Barry Jenkins BLACKKKLANSMAN Charlie Wachtel, David Rabinowitz, Kevin Willmott and Spike Lee THE BALLAD OF BUSTER SCRUGGS Joel and Ethan Coen CAN YOU EVER FORGIVE ME? Nicole Holofcener and Jeff Whitty A STAR IS BORN Eric Roth, Bradley Cooper and Will Fetters From a letter forger to an alcoholic pop star to a black policeman pretending to be a part of the Ku Klux Klan, here are the films nominated for the Best Adapted Screenplay Oscar. What’s your pick? WHO WILL WIN?