It’s not often you get to interview an Academy Award winning director but Barry Jenkins himself stopped by the Majic studios ahead of his new film, If Beale Street Could Talk which is today.
Sitting in with KG Smooth, the two discuss how Jenkins himself came into learning about James Baldwin, Jenkins’ finding a way to put a Houston aesthetic into his films via chopped and screwed music and some of his all-time favorite love songs (he’s a stickler for Al Green‘s “Simply Beautiful”).
On His Introduction To Baldwin:
“I was an undergrad at Florida State, I think I was a sophomore. I was dating this young woman who was a senior so she was a little bit older, a little bit wiser, more attractive. She was legit. Because I was such a young, not fully developed dude emotionally, she broke up with me. Before she broke up with me she said, ‘You need to read James Baldwin.’ I think that was her way of telling me that I had a lot of growing to do. So she gave me a copy of ‘The Fire Next Time’ and ‘Giovanni’s Room.’ So that was my introduction to Baldwin. I thought the style was incredibly provocative, very moving – poetic in a certain way. But he was being poetic about some very real things. He was writing about so many things about the lives and souls of Black folks and writing about it in such a way that was moving. I never heard of him at that point, which I was embarrassed by. And I think she was correct. I learned a lot of stuff about myself and a lot about Black folks in this country.
It’s wild because when I read ‘If Beale Street Could Talk’ which another friend introduced me to … I have this history of women introducing me to Baldwin, James Baldwin’s work. About eight years ago a friend sent me If Beale Street Could Talk and said, “I think there’s a movie in this.” It’s a love story, it’s a romance, it’s about family but it’s about some very real things y’know? About systemic injustice and mass incarceration and the blend of those two things spoke to me.”