Out From The Margins
This coming February sees the release of Barry Jenkins’ masterful new film, If Beale Street Could Talk. One of the films of the year, Jenkins’ follow up to his surprise Best Picture Oscar winner Moonlight is another modern classic, cementing Jenkins’ place as one of the most potently humane filmmakers working today.
Above all else Beale Street is a triumph of a fully realised vision, its story of young love torn apart by a wrongful imprisonment masterfully adapted from the classic novel by James Baldwin. But like Moonlight before it, Beale Street also represents a landmark shift in the portrayal of black lives on screen. Because while If Beale Street Could Talk contains an instantly familiar portrayal of systemic racism in 1970s America, it is primarily an unashamed, swooning love story, working in a tone and a stylistic mode that the traditional ‘canon’ has often reserved for white characters. Instead, here is a historical drama foregrounding the black experience, with the experience of those characters refreshingly central to our understanding of the history being portrayed onscreen.
Inspired by this repositioning of black lives at the centre of both history and different cinematic genres, Out From The Margins presents black characters as the protagonists of gumshoe noir tales (Devil In A Blue Dress), Broadway musicals (The Wiz), coming of age stories (Moonlight), silent comedies (Sidewalk Stories), middle class love triangles (Losing Ground) and, in the case of Beloved and Daughters of the Dusk, at the centre of American history. In doing so they celebrate their character’s agency, challenging outmoded notions of representation, diversifying the stories black characters are a part of, and bringing black lives on screen Out From The Margins.