Director Spotlight I: Barry Jenkins

Director Spotlight is our new self-indulgent way to watch movie after movie, complete minimal work, and call ourselves productive. We are two friends who often enjoy the 90-minute-long worlds created by these directors more than the one we are in. We spend most of our time together watching movies, talking about movies, or one-upping each other with our strange, encyclopedic knowledge of independent film. We hope that our enthusiasm for movies will encourage readers to step out of their comfort zones and join us in the world of pseudo-intellectuals and cinema. 


Director Background:

Barry Jenkins grew up in Liberty City, Fla., and studied film at Florida State University. After college, he made his first film, “Medicine for Melancholy.” He didn’t make another until his breakout film “Moonlight,” which reaped countless accolades, including the Academy Award for Best Picture and Best Actress with Regina King. Jenkins went on to direct an adaptation of James Baldwin’s “If Beale Street Could Talk,” and will soon release a miniseries version of Colson Whitehead’s novel “The Underground Railroad.”


Lou and Emi’s Picks:





(Artistic) Reasons to Love Jenkins:


Barry Jenkins is one of the leading figures in American cinema today. His work features color schemes that capture the beauty of his worlds, from neons bringing a dreamlike quality to “Moonlight” and the wistful black-and-white turned color scheme in “Medicine.” He uses his artistic eye to both personalize and complicate ongoing conversations about the justice system, gentrification, and Black masculinity. 

Jenkins is a master of portraying love and intimacy. He utilizes his actors’ talents toward creating worlds of emotion in even the most simple shot. In “Beale Street,” some of the most memorable shots are the two main characters looking at each other as the world around melts away. Jenkins uses direct eye contact into the camera in a myriad of other ways, too, like in Paula and young Chiron’s arguments in “Moonlight.”

The highlights of Jenkins’s movies are his ending scenes which often stick with the viewer long after they end. **SPOILER ALERT** Each one is a slight, emotionally charged departure from the rest of the film. In “Moonlight,” young Chiron looks into the ocean, then back at us. 

A makeshift family dinner in a prison cafeteria concludes “Beale Street” while a brightly colored long shot of Micah’s house and Joanne riding her bike away forever is the last we see before the screen goes black in “Medicine.” These shots end Jenkins’ movies with a melancholy satisfaction that leaves the viewer with a lingering curiosity about the story.