Barry Jenkins to be Honored for 'Beale Street' at PEN America LitFest Gala (Exclusive)

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Barry Jenkins joins a roster of previously announced honorees including artist Ai Weiwei and PEN America trustee Marvin Putnam. The gala takes place Nov. 2 in Beverly Hills.

PEN America is readying to write all of the name's of this year's PEN America LitFest Gala honorees in ink, including Oscar winning filmmaker Barry Jenkins. The writer-director, who won an Academy Award for co-writing the script for his best picture winner Moonlight, will receive the award for screenplay excellence at the event, to be held Nov. 2 at the Beverly Wilshire in Beverly Hills. 

Jenkins, 38, is being honored for his latest work, If Beale Street Could Talk, based on the 1974 novel by James Baldwin. Other honorees at the event include artist Ai Weiwei, who will receive the Artistic Expression Award, and PEN America trustee Marvin Putnam, who will take home the Distinguished Leadership Award.

Michelle Franke, executive director of PEN America in Los Angeles, said the organization is thrilled to honor Jenkins and his upcoming film. “A faithful adaptation of James Baldwin’s novel and proof of Jenkins’ remarkable ability to connect people through story, experience, and a certain hope for the future," Franke said.

Beale Street tells the story of Tish, a newly engaged Harlem woman who races against the clock to prove her lover’s innocence while carrying their first-born child to term. The film stars KiKi Layne, Stephan James, Regina King, Teyonah Parris, Aunjanue Ellis, Dave Franco, Diego Luna, Pedro Pascal, Emily Rios, Ed Skrein, Finn Wittrock and Brian Tyree Henry. 

Annapurna releases the film on Nov. 30 following its world premiere at the recent Toronto International Film Festival. The Hollywood Reporter's David Rooney reviewed the film in Toronto: "As he demonstrated to unforgettable effect in Moonlight, writer-director Barry Jenkins is a ravishing visual stylist but also a storyteller of transfixing emotional intensity, capable of layering fathomless depths into his characters, just as often with a silent gaze as with words. Those same gifts are applied to his lustrous adaptation of the 1974 novel If Beale Street Could Talk, an intimate evocation of African-American lives ruptured by injustice that’s faithful almost to a fault to the unique voice of its author, James Baldwin."

Now in its 28th year, PEN America’s LitFest Gala is a celebration of free expression and the literary arts. Previous honorees include Roxane Gay, Isabel Allende, Jose Antonio Vargas, Margaret Atwood, Janet Mock, Norman Lear, Guillermo del Toro, Amber Tamblyn, Aisha Tyler, Amy Poehler and Cecile Richards. More information here