Barry Jenkins: 5 Fast Facts You Need to Know

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Director Barry Jenkins of ‘Moonlight’ attends the Outstanding Director’s Award during the 32nd Santa Barbara International Film Festival at the Arlington Theatre on February 7, 2017 in Santa Barbara, California. (Getty)

The 89th Academy Awards are here, and a number of impressive people will be taking their seats at the Dolby Theatre for the ceremony. One of those people is Barry Jenkins, the writer and director of Moonlight.

Moonlight is up for the Oscar for Best Picture, along with Fences, Lion, Hacksaw Ridges, Hidden Figures, La La Land, Manchester by the Sea, Hell or High Water, and Arrival. 

Read on to learn about Barry Jenkins.


1. Moonlight Marks His First Film in Eight Years

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Director Barry Jenkins of ‘Moonlight speaks onstage at the Outstanding Director’s Award during the 32nd Santa Barbara International Film Festival at the Arlington Theatre on February 7, 2017 in Santa Barbara, California. (Getty)

“He has felt the weight of each passing year… He always assumed he would have made more films by this point in his life. There have been moments over the course of the past eight years — desperate stretches of days or months — when he feared he would never make a movie again.”

After his 2008 debut, it took Jenkins eight years to make his next film. According to Fader, the writer/director knew it would take some time to make another movie, but he thought he’d have done so within two years. “I knew it would be a process, but I thought for sure within the next two years I would be on set making my next film… And when it didn’t happen, I thought, Shit, there must be something wrong with me.”


2. He Wrote and Directed a Critically Acclaimed Film in 2008 Called ‘Medicine for Melancholy’

Though Moonlight marks Jenkins’ first film in almost a decade, it was Medicine for Melancholy that really got the ball rolling for him. The movie won the San Francisco Film Critics Circle Marlon Riggs Award, and was nominated for an array of other accolades, like the Chicago International Film Festival New Directors Competition, the Gotham Independent Film Award for Best Breakthrough Director, the Independent Spirit Award for Best Feature, the Independent Spirit Someone to Watch Award, and the LA Film Festival Award for Best Narrative Feature.

Medicine for Melancholy was made for $15,000, and is best described as a romantic drama. It follows two black young adults in their 20s, and the day they spend together after a one night stand. Each character embodies, and believes in, something different when it comes to race and gentrification in San Francisco.


3. He’s Writing a Script Based on Colson Whitehead’s Bestselling Novel ‘The Underground Railroad’

What’s next for Jenkins? He is slated to pen a limited series based on Colson Whitehead’s bestselling novel, “The Underground Railroad.” The series will be produced by Moonlight producer, Plan B.

After that, he will write the screenplay for a coming-of-age drama that is based on Claressa “T-Rex” Shields– two-time Olympic boxing champ. Deadline broke the news in October, reporting that Universal Pictures had acquired Shields’ “life rights” and the rights to the 2015 boxing documentary T-Rex, which debuted on Netflix last summer. Deadline writes, “Jenkins fell in love with Shields’ story a while ago, but the deal took time.”


4. He Studied Film at Florida State University in Tallahassee

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Writer Barry Jenkins accepts the Original Screenplay Award for ‘Moonlight’ onstage during the 2017 Writers Guild Awards L.A. Ceremony at The Beverly Hilton Hotel on February 19, 2017 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Charley Gallay/Getty Images for WGAw)

Jenkins was born in 1979 in Liberty City, Miami, making him 37-years-old. According to The Fader, he is the youngest of three children by a decade– each of his siblings has a different father. His mother was a drug addict, according to the outlet, and was left by his biological father when she became pregnant with him. “The man passed away when I was 12, taking to his grave the knowledge I was not his son,” Barry once wrote. “In the few times his eyes met mine, I never saw anything in them but anger and hurt.”

The high school in Moonlight is named after Jenkins’ own– Miami Northwestern, where he played on the football team. Barry studied film at Florida State University.


5. Moonlight Has Been Nominated for Eight Academy Awards

Jenkins’ critically acclaimed film was nominated for eight Academy Awards, including Best Motion Picture, Supporting Actor, Supporting Actress, Directing, Cinematography, Film Editing, Original Score, and Writing.

The movie’s premiere received a standing ovation and won the 2017 Golden Globe for Best Drama Motion Picture. The film centers on Chiron, a black, gay man, who was raised in Miami by a mother with a drug addiction.

Moonlight made its premiere at the Telluride Film Festival on September 2, 2016. It was filmed in Miami in 2015, and was distributed by A24. The movie was made on a budget of about $5 million, and grossed approximately $23 million.

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