Director Barry Jenkins on “If Beale Street Could Talk”

Academy Award-winning director Barry Jenkins joins the program to discuss his latest Oscar contender, “If Beale Street Could Talk.”

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Barry, I mean it is almost extraordinary for us to be able to compute that this this, well I mean you know you yourself talk about a really unpleasant racial epithet being hurled at you or you heard it being discussed about you even at the very height of your Moonlight success.

There you are an Oscar winning director and you yourself had to know while you were you were insulted.

Yeah, it's just stuff, it's a reality of life.

I mean look now is 90 percent or 99 percent of the American population going around hurling racial slurs, no of course not, but I do think these things still occur you know and they can occur to someone like me in the situation that it did, I can't imagine what happens to someone who was working a shift you know at McDonald's you know or to a woman who's making her way into a Fortune 500 company. You know how do you rise through the ranks when there's so much of this passive aggression are hurled against you.

Let me ask you also about the topic you've talked a lot about women but also you take on black rather male masculinity.

You did well black male masculinity frankly you did it in Moonlight a young gay man boy growing up mother was a crack addict. It's the first time that character has been so portrayed and again here in If Beale Street Could Talk you know that the quintessential love and goodness that you know that the male character funny displayed even as he was being railroaded framed for this crime that he did not commit.

These are very special portrayals.

Yeah you know I just happened to have the honor of adapting you know really amazing writers.

You know Tarell Alvin McCraney who wrote the play that moonlight is based on is a MacArthur genius and James Baldwin is a genius period, so in a way I'm kind of cheating but I think that both between myself and the actors we're looking to just basically reflect the world that we see you know.

You know black men have innocence and tenderness in their hearts you know, but we rarely see the innocence and tenderness rendered you know in mass media, so I think for us when we're making these films just about reflecting the characters that we see in our everyday lives you know Brian Tyree Henry, Stephan James you know are very warm, very just amazing young men and I think they bring part of themselves to these roles and you are absolutely right, you know, part of what I love about this job is getting the opportunity to show all the multitudes you know of blackness you know and I think working from this book by James Baldwin which does contain multitudes, we can speak to both the light and the darkness of this particular aspect of the black experience.

About This Episode EXPAND

Christiane Amanpour speaks with former U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel about what’s at stake for the country; and film director Barry Jenkins about his new film “If Beale Street Could Talk.” Michel Martin speaks with U.S. Rep. Stephanie Murphy about diversity and immigration.