Gay author James Baldwin‘s birthday is today, and Barry Jenkins, director of the Academy Award-winning gay romance film Moonlight, gave him a pretty great gift. Today, Jenkins released the trailer for his next film If Beale Street Could Talk, the new James Baldwin movie adaptation based on Baldwin’s 1974 novel of the same name. The trailer is less-straightforward than you might expect, instead providing a tone of the beautifully shot film rather that much about its plot.
Last July, Jenkins announced the was adapting If Beale Street Could Talk, Baldwin’s fifth novel. The novel covers the consequences of a false rape accusation on a black heterosexual couple living in Harlem.
The novel follows Fonny and Tish, a couple working to exonerate Fonny after he’s falsely accused of rape by a racist policeman named Officer Bell. There’s a deadline, though: Tish is pregnant and hopes to clear Fonny’s name before their baby is born.
The new James Baldwin movie stars Stephan James and KiKi Layne as Fonny and Tish. Stephan James previously played civil rights leader John Lewis in 2014’s Selma; this will be Layne’s first major role, though she will play Bessie in next year’s adaptation of Richard Wright’s Native Son.
On Twitter, Barry Jenkins shared the If Beale Street Could Talk trailer, writing, “For me, August 2nd has always been a day to pay tribute, so… a teaser of what’s to come. Happy Birthday, Jimmy.”
Though the new James Baldwin movie adaptation is Jenkins’ first film since his Oscar-winning Moonlight, Jenkins has kept busy. In addition to directing an episode of Netflix’s Dear White People, he’s also working on directing an 11-episode TV series called The Underground Railroad. The Underground Railroad will be an hourlong drama for Amazon, based on Colson Whitehead’s book of the same name which envisions the covert escape route used by black slaves during the 18th century as a literal railway.
Jenkins has been working with the Baldwin estate on the new film. James Baldwin’s sister, Gloria Karefa-Smart, said, “We are delighted to entrust Barry Jenkins with this adaptation. Barry is a sublimely conscious and gifted filmmaker, whose Medicine for Melancholy (Jenkins’ early film) impressed us so greatly that we had to work with him.”