Barry Jenkins

Barry Jenkins (born November 19, 1979) is an American film director, screenwriter, producer, and member of The Chopstars collective. After making his filmmaking debut with the short film My Josephine (2003), he directed his first feature film Medicine for Melancholy (2008) for which he received an Independent Spirit Award nomination for Best First Feature.

Barry Jenkins
Barry Jenkins (cropped).jpg
Jenkins in 2009
Born (1979-11-19) November 19, 1979 (age 41)
Miami, Florida, U.S.
Alma materFlorida State University
OccupationFilm director, screenwriter, producer
Years active2003–present

Following an eight-year hiatus from feature filmmaking, Jenkins directed and co-wrote the LGBT-themed independent drama Moonlight (2016), which won numerous accolades, including the Academy Award for Best Picture. Jenkins received an Oscar nomination for Best Director and jointly won the Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay with Tarell Alvin McCraney.[1] He became the fourth black person to be nominated for Best Director and the second black person to direct a Best Picture winner. He released his third directorial feature If Beale Street Could Talk in 2018 to critical praise, and earned nominations for his screenplay at the Academy Awards and Golden Globes.

He is also known for his work in television. Jenkins directed "Chapter V" of the Netflix series Dear White People in 2017. In 2021, he directed the Amazon Video limited series The Underground Railroad based on the novel of the same name and received a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Directing for a Limited Series or Movie nomination.

In 2017, Jenkins was included on the annual Time 100 list of the most influential people in the world.[2]

Early lifeEdit

Jenkins was born in 1979 at Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami, Florida,[3] the youngest of four siblings, each from a different father.[4] His father separated from his mother while she was pregnant with Jenkins, believing that he was not Jenkins's father; he died when Jenkins was 12.[4] His mother suffered from a crack-cocaine addiction.[5] He recalled being a reserved and attentive child.[5]

Jenkins grew up in Liberty City and was primarily raised by another older woman (who had also looked after his mother while she was a teenager) in an overcrowded apartment.[4] He attended Miami Northwestern Senior High School, where he played football and ran track.[3]

Jenkins studied film at the Florida State University College of Motion Picture Arts,[3] where he met many of his future frequent collaborators, including cinematographer James Laxton, producer Adele Romanski and editors Nat Sanders and Joi McMillon.[6] While at Florida State, Jenkins became a member of Alpha Phi Alpha[7] fraternity. Four days after graduating from FSU, Jenkins moved to Los Angeles to pursue a filmmaking career, spending two years working on various projects as a production assistant.[3]


2000s–2010s: Early workEdit

Jenkins at a Q&A for Medicine for Melancholy at the Northwest Film Forum in 2009

Jenkins debuted on the screen with his 2003 short My Josephine, but his first breakout film was Medicine for Melancholy, a low-budget independent feature, produced with Strike Anywhere films and released in 2008. The movie stars Wyatt Cenac and Tracey Heggins.[8] The film was well received by critics.[4]

After the success of his previous film, Jenkins wrote an epic for Focus Features about "Stevie Wonder and time travel" and an adaptation of the James Baldwin novel If Beale Street Could Talk, neither of which initially entered production.[4][9] He later worked as a carpenter and co-founded Strike Anywhere, an advertising company. In 2011, he wrote and directed Remigration, a sci-fi short film about gentrification. Jenkins became a writer for HBO's The Leftovers, about which he said, "I didn't get to do much."[4] In 2012, he received a United States Artists Fellowship grant.[10]

2016: MoonlightEdit

Jenkins directed and co-wrote, with Tarell Alvin McCraney, the 2016 drama Moonlight, his first feature film in eight years.[4] It's an adaption of McCarney's play In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue; both's lives influenced the production, having spent their childhoods in close proximity although without knowning each other.[5] The film was shot in Miami and premiered at the Telluride Film Festival in September 2016 to vast critical acclaim and awards buzz.[11][12]

A.O. Scott of The New York Times wrote: "Moonlight dwells on the dignity, beauty and terrible vulnerability of black bodies, on the existential and physical matter of black lives."[13] Variety wrote: "Barry Jenkins' vital portrait of a South Florida youth revisits the character at three stages in his life, offering rich insights into the contemporary African-American experience."[14] David Sims of The Atlantic wrote: "Like all great films, Moonlight is both specific and sweeping. It’s a story about identity—an intelligent, challenging work."[15]

The film won dozens of accolades, including the Golden Globe Award for Best Picture – Drama[16] and the Academy Award for Best Picture at the 89th Academy Awards.[17] Jenkins and McCraney also won Best Adapted Screenplay. Overall, the film received eight Oscar nominations, including Best Director.[18]

2017–present: Further projectsEdit

In 2017, Jenkins directed the fifth episode of the first volume of the Netflix original series Dear White People.[19]

In 2013, the same year he wrote Moonlight, he wrote a film adaptation of James Baldwin's novel If Beale Street Could Talk.[20] Production began in October 2017 with Annapurna Pictures, Pastel, and Plan B.[21] The film was released in December 2018 to critical acclaim. It garnered numerous accolades, including Best Supporting Actress wins for Regina King at the Academy Awards and Golden Globes. Jenkins received an Academy Award nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay.

Jenkins directed the 2021 television series adaptation of Colson Whitehead's novel The Underground Railroad, which was initiated by Amazon Studios (and subsequently ordered to series in June 2018) after Jenkins' strong Oscar haul for Moonlight. The main cast of The Underground Railroad includes Thuso Mbedu as Cora, with Chase W. Dillon as Homer and Aaron Pierre as Caesar.[22]

The next major film Jenkins is set to direct is a prequel to the CGI remake of Disney's The Lion King that primarily concerns the coming of age origins of Mufasa.[23] Upcoming projects include a screenplay based on the life of Claressa Shields and a biographical film about choreographer Alvin Ailey which he will direct.[24][23] More recently, his Pastel production company signed a first look deal with HBO, HBO Max and A24.[25]


In both Medicine for Melancholy and Moonlight, Jenkins couples introspection with speculation upon black identity.[26]

Personal lifeEdit

Jenkins has been in a relationship with fellow filmmaker Lulu Wang since 2018.[27]



Year Title Director Writer Producer Ref.
2008 Medicine for Melancholy Yes Yes No [28]
2016 Moonlight Yes Yes No [29]
2018 If Beale Street Could Talk Yes Yes Yes [21]
2020 Charm City Kings No Story No [30]
TBA Flint Strong No Yes Yes [31]
Untitled Lion King prequel Yes No No
Untitled Alvin Ailey film Yes No No
Untitled Virunga adaptation No Yes No


Year Title Director Writer Producer Notes Ref.
2017 Dear White People Yes No No Episode: "Chapter V" [19]
2021 The Underground Railroad Yes Yes Yes 10 episodes [23]



  1. ^ Rothman, Michael (February 26, 2017). "'Moonlight' wins best picture after 'La La Land' mistakenly announced". ABC News. Retrieved February 27, 2017.
  2. ^ "Barry Jenkins: The World's 100 Most Influential People". Time. Retrieved September 23, 2020.
  3. ^ a b c d Rodriguez, Rene (February 27, 2017). "'Moonlight' director says growing up in Miami, 'Life was heavy,' but it's a 'beautiful place'". Miami Herald. Retrieved January 18, 2020.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g Stephenson, Will. "Barry Jenkins Slow-Cooks His Masterpiece". The Fader. Retrieved October 22, 2016.
  5. ^ a b c Rapold, Nicolas (2016). "Interview With Barry Jenkins". Film Comment. 52 (5): 44–45. ISSN 0015-119X.
  6. ^ Ugwu, Reggie (January 22, 2019). "Barry Jenkins Is Trying Not to Think About 'Barry Jenkins'". The New York Times. Retrieved January 18, 2020.
  7. ^
  8. ^ Scott, A. O. (January 29, 2009). "In Barry Jenkins's First Movie, a Short-Term Romance Leads to Big Questions". The New York Times. Retrieved October 22, 2016.
  9. ^ Keegan, Rebecca. "To give birth to 'Moonlight,' writer-director Barry Jenkins dug deep into his past". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved October 27, 2016.
  10. ^ "United States Artists » Barry Jenkins". Retrieved May 26, 2020.
  11. ^ Hammond, Pete (September 1, 2016). "Telluride Film Festival Lineup: 'Sully', 'La La Land', 'Arrival', 'Bleed For This' & More". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved September 1, 2016.
  12. ^ Buchanan, Kyle (October 21, 2016). "Moonlight's Barry Jenkins on Directing One of the Best Films of the Year". Vulture. Retrieved October 22, 2016.
  13. ^ Scott, A. O. (October 20, 2016). "'Moonlight': Is This the Year's Best Movie?". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved January 9, 2017.
  14. ^ Debruge, Peter (September 3, 2016). "Film Review: 'Moonlight'". Variety. Retrieved January 9, 2017.
  15. ^ Sims, David. "'Moonlight' Is a Film of Uncommon Grace". The Atlantic. Retrieved January 12, 2017.
  16. ^ Berman, Eliza. "'Moonlight' Wins Golden Globe for Best Picture, Drama". TIME. Retrieved January 9, 2017.
  17. ^ "Oscars 2017: 'Moonlight' wins best picture in a wild ending". USA Today. Retrieved February 27, 2017.
  18. ^ Opam, Kwame (January 24, 2017). "Oscar nominations 2017: Moonlight and La La Land will go head-to-head at the Academy Awards". The Verge. Retrieved February 5, 2017.
  19. ^ a b Bentley, Jean (April 30, 2017). "Inside 'Dear White People's' Pivotal and Emotional Fifth Episode". Retrieved September 30, 2020.
  20. ^ Black, Julia (January 9, 2017). "Moonlight Director Barry Jenkins Hopes His Film Pulls People Out of Their Comfort Zones". Esquire. Retrieved July 16, 2017.
  21. ^ a b Haigney, Sophie (July 10, 2017). "Barry Jenkins to Follow 'Moonlight' With a James Baldwin Work". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved July 16, 2017.
  22. ^ Otterson, Joe (April 16, 2019). "Barry Jenkins' 'Underground Railroad' Series at Amazon Sets Three Main Cast Members". Retrieved September 30, 2020.
  23. ^ a b c Lang, Brent (September 29, 2020). "'The Lion King' Follow-Up in the Works With Director Barry Jenkins". Retrieved September 30, 2020.
  24. ^ Erbland, Kate (October 7, 2016). "'Moonlight' Filmmaker Barry Jenkins Will Write Script For Fact-Based Female Boxer Coming-of-Age Drama". Retrieved September 30, 2020.
  25. ^ White, Peter (April 1, 2021). "Barry Jenkins' Pastel Strikes First-Look Deal With HBO, HBO Max & A24". Deadline. Retrieved April 2, 2021.
  26. ^ Gillespie, Michael Boyce (2017). "One Step Ahead: A Conversation With Barry Jenkins". Film Quarterly. 70 (3): 52–62. doi:10.2307/26413788. ISSN 0015-1386.
  27. ^ Gardner, Chris (March 13, 2019). "New Power Couple Alert: Barry Jenkins Makes Red Carpet Debut With Indie Filmmaker Lulu Wang". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved January 18, 2020.
  28. ^ "Medicine for Melancholy (2008) | Awards" IMDb.
  29. ^ "Moonlight (I) (2016) | Awards" IMDb.
  30. ^ Galuppo, Mia (December 17, 2019). "Sundance: Sony Pictures Classics to Release 'Charm City Kings'". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved December 17, 2019.
  31. ^ Kroll, Justin (June 19, 2019). "'Black Panther' DP Rachel Morrison to Make Directorial Debut on Barry Jenkins Script 'Flint Strong'". Variety. Retrieved March 28, 2020.

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