Barry Jenkins to Direct Alvin Ailey Film

By N. Jamiyla Chisholm Jun 04, 2019

Director Barry Jenkins (“If Beale Street Could Talk,” “Moonlight”) has been tapped to direct a film based on the life of choreographer Alvin Ailey, the famed founder of the eponymous American dance theater company in New York City, Deadline reported yesterday (June 3). 

“Beyond proud and humbled to have the opportunity to bring Brother Ailey’s life to the screen,” Jenkins tweeted

Produced by Fox Searchlight, the currently untitled film will reportedly benefit from creative input from the company’s artistic director Robert Battle and artistic director emerita Judith Jamison. The rights to Ailey’s screen life were secured with the blessing of the Ailey organization. As part of the deal, Jenkins will also have access to Jennifer Dunning’s biography “Alvin Ailey: A Life In Dance.”

Ailey, a seminal choreographer of the 20th century, introduced the Alvin Ailey American Theater and its company of Black modern dancers to the world in 1958, and his masterpiece, “Revelations,” just two years later. A prolific artist and collaborator, Ailey and the company toured with John F. Kennedy’s President’s Special International Program for Cultural Presentations in 1962 and performed “My People: First Negro Centennial” in collaboration with Duke Ellington the same year. By the time iconic dancer Jamison made her first appearance with the company in 1965, Ailey was a household name.

Born in segregated Texas, Ailey was one of the most lauded choreographers of all time when he died in December 1989 at the age of 58, reportedly due to terminal blood dyscrasia, a rare disorder that affects the bone marrow and red blood cells. The year before his passing, Ailey reached several personal milestones: Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater celebrated 30 years, he was awarded The Kennedy Center Honor—the nation’s highest official distinction for creative artists—and he received the Handel Medallion, New York City’s highest cultural honor.

In addition to directing the film, Jenkins will also co-executive produce. Alicia Keys is a co-producer on the project and Julian Breece (“When They See Us”) will write the script.