Oscar Directors: Jenkins, Barry–Background, Career, Awards, Filmography

Marriage: filmmaker Lulu Wang since 2018

Barry Jenkins (born November 19, 1979) is an American filmmaker, who made his debut with the short film My Josephine. He received an Independent Spirit Award nomination for Best First Feature for Medicine for Melancholy (2008).

After 8-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.

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.

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

Jenkins was born in 1979 at Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami, Florida, the youngest of four siblings, each from a different father.

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.

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. He attended Miami Northwestern Senior High School, where he played football and ran track.

Jenkins studied film at the Florida State University College of Motion Picture Arts, where he met many of his future frequent collaborators, including cinematographer James Laxton, producer Adele Romanski and editors Nat Sanders and Joi McMillon.

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.

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.[6] The film was well received by critics.

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][7] 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.[8]

Jenkins directed and co-wrote, with Tarell Alvin McCraney, the 2016 drama Moonlight, his first feature film in eight years.[4] The film was shot in Miami and premiered at the Telluride Film Festival in September 2016 to vast critical acclaim and awards buzz.[9][10] 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.”[11] 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.”[12] 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.”

The film won dozens of accolades, including the Golden Globe Award for Best Picture – Drama and the Academy Award for Best Picture at the 89th Academy Awards. Jenkins and McCraney also won Best Adapted Screenplay.

Overall, the film received eight Oscar nominations, including Best Director.

2017–present: Further projects
In 2017, Jenkins directed the fifth episode of the Netflix original series Dear White People.[17]

In 2013, the same year he wrote Moonlight, he wrote a film adaptation of James Baldwin’s novel If Beale Street Could Talk.[18] Production began in October 2017 with Annapurna Pictures, Pastel, and Plan B.[19] 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.

Upcoming projects include a series based on Colson Whitehead’s novel The Underground Railroad and screenplay based on the life of Claressa Shields.  The main cast of the TV adaptation will include Thuso Mbedu as Cora, with Chase W. Dillon as Homer and Aaron Pierre as Caesar. The project was first set up on the heels of Jenkins’s Oscar wins for Moonlight, with Amazon Studios ordering it to series in June 2018.

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


2008 Medicine for Melancholy Yes Yes No [23]

2016 Moonlight Yes Yes No [24]

2018 If Beale Street Could Talk Yes Yes Yes [19]

2020 Charm City Kings No Story No [25]

TBA Flint Strong No Yes No [26]


2017 Dear White People Yes No No Episode: “Chapter V” [27]
TBA The Underground Railroad Yes Yes Yes 11 episodes [28]

Awards and nominations

2008 Independent Spirit Award Best First Feature Medicine for Melancholy Nominated
Someone to Watch Award Nominated
2009 Gotham Awards Breakthrough Director Nominated
2009 Los Angeles Film Festival Best Narrative Feature Nominated
2009 San Francisco Film Critics Circle Marlon Riggs Award Won
2009 Chicago International Film Festival New Directors Competition Nominated
2009 IndieWire Critics Poll Best First Feature 5th Place
2016 Academy Best Director Moonlight Nominated; Best Adapted Screenplay Won
2016 Golden Globe Award Best Director Nominated; Best Screenplay Nominated
2016 British Academy Film Awards Best Original Screenplay Nominated
2016 Independent Spirit Award Best Director Won; Best Screenplay Won
Robert Altman Award Won
2016 Gotham Awards Best Feature Won
Best Screenplay Won
Audience Award Won
2016 IndieWire Critics Poll Best Director Won
Best Screenplay Nominated
2016 Broadcast Film Critics Award Best Director Nominated
Best Original Screenplay Nominated
2016 Directors Guild of America Directing – Feature Film Nominated
2016 Writers Guild of America Best Original Screenplay Won
2016 Los Angeles Film Critics Association Best Director Won
2016 National Board of Review Best Director Won
2016 National Society of Film Critics Best Director Won
2016 New York Film Critics Circle Best Director Won
2016 London Film Festival Official Competition Nominated
2016 Toronto International Film Festival Platform Prize Nominated
2019 Academy Award Best Adapted Screenplay If Beale Street Could Talk Nominated
2019 Golden Globe Award Best Screenplay Nominated
2019 British Academy Film Award Best Adapted Screenplay Nominated
2019 Independent Spirit Award Best Film Won
Best Director Won
2019 Gotham Awards Best Feature Nominated; Best Screenplay Nominated
2019 Broadcast Film Critics Award Best Adapted Screenplay Won
2019 Writers Guild of America Best Adapted Screenplay Nominated
2019 National Board of Review Best Adapted Screenplay Won
2019 Toronto International Film Festival People’s Choice Award 2nd Place