Since’s Barry Jenkin’s stratospheric rise to fame after the critically acclaimed and Oscar-winning films Moonlight and If Beale Street Could Talk, all eyes are on the director to see which direction his next film will take. His forthcoming project, however, will go down a different route as he sets his sights on the biopic, specifically focusing on the life of choreographer and activist Alvin Ailey.
Ailey was a revolutionary figure in the world of dance, being hailed as the reason for heightened African-American participation in 20th-century concert dance. Growing up in the time of extreme racial hatred and segregation in the 1930s, Ailey moved with his mother to California where he fell in love with the restorative power of music and dance. He founded the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater Company in his late twenties, which was one of the first racially integrated dance companies in the 1950s. Ailey died young aged just 58 from suspected complications from HIV/AIDS, having maintained a closeted personal life despite his large admiration from the gay community and his choreography that often emphasised intimate, sensual relations between men.
Having already tackled the topic of closeted homosexuality in the African-American community in his films, Ailey’s complex and colourful life story seems to be in safe hands with Barry Jenkins, whose carefully nuanced storytelling has already garnered him critical respect. Having bought the rights to Jennifer Dunning’s book Alvin Ailey: A Life In Dance, the film will be made by Fox Searchlight and co-produced by singer Alicia Keys.
Words by Steph Green