After all was said and done in the race leading up to the 2016 Oscars, arguably the biggest shock came not as a result of who the winners were, but rather due to the massive gaffe that incorrectly awarded La La Land the best picture Oscar. As the smoke cleared and Moonlight was correctly pronounced the winner, the victory could be seen as the final hurdle that director Barry Jenkins had to clear.
Faced with strict budgetary constraints, limited windows for shooting and a story that was far from the typical mainstream Hollywood fare, Jenkins took a true passion project and brought it to a multiple Oscar winning level while becoming the fourth black filmmaker to ever be nominated for Best Director. With such degrees of success to his name, the issue of what Barry Jenkins plans on doing next is still very much a question on the minds of many.
The answer to that question has now officially arrived, courtesy of Variety. As it so happens, Barry Jenkins’ next passion project will not be a film but a one-hour drama series about the Underground Railroad for Amazon Studios. The series is based on the award-winning novel The Underground Railroad by author Colson Whitehead – a story that embraces historical fact while simultaneously incorporating elements of magical realism.
The Underground Railroad was of course, a network of safe houses and escape routes used by African-American slaves who were attempting to escape the antebellum south for so-called free states and Canada. Whitehead’s novel tells the story of Cora, a young slave girl who makes her escape for the Underground Railroad, only to discover that the trusted escape network is in fact an actual railroad, complete with engineers and conductors on a rail line beneath the surface of America’s Confederate States. At present no casting decisions have been revealed, nor has the series’ release date. Speaking about the new project however, Barry Jenkins had this to say:
“Going back to ‘The Intuitionist,’ Colson’s writing has always defied convention, and ‘The Underground Railroad’ is no different. It’s a groundbreaking work that pays respect to our nation’s history while using the form to explore it in a thoughtful and original way. Preserving the sweep and grandeur of a story like this requires bold, innovative thinking and in Amazon we’ve found a partner whose reverence for storytelling and freeness of form is wholly in line with our vision.”
Although The Underground Railroad won’t be a feature film, it’s still exciting to see Jenkins take on such subject matter. With three Oscars to Moonlight’s credit, a follow up can undoubtedly be a daunting prospect. At the same time, The Underground Railroad is an opportunity for Jenkins to stick close to his dramatic filmmaking roots while branching out into more fantastical elements of storytelling. The series likely won’t be a huge departure (at least not thematically) from what Jenkins is used to creating, but that should by no means be seen as a negative characteristic.
A one-hour series could be the perfect primer for Jenkins, allowing him to try new methods of storytelling before ultimately delivering his next film. And if Moonlight is any indication, audiences can expect an emotional rollercoaster when The Underground Railroad eventually does premier.
Screen Rant will keep you updated on all the latest news for The Underground Railroad.