The Post-9/11 Student Film That Launched Barry Jenkins’s Career

In 2003, fourteen years before his coming-of-age drama Moonlight took home the best picture Oscar, Barry Jenkins stepped behind the camera for the first time. And from his student short, it was clear that the director—whose latest, the festival-favorite James Baldwin adaptation If Beale Street Could Talk, will be released next month—had found his medium. Viewers can discover Jenkins’s beautifully atmospheric debut for themselves on the Criterion Channel on FilmStruck, where My Josephine is now streaming alongside a brand-new introduction by Jenkins.

Drenched in dreamlike aquatic tones and featuring highly expressive camera work, the film is a moving dispatch from the post-9/11 South, following a young Arab American man at an all-night laundromat, where he spends his shift washing and folding American flags with a coworker he has taken a shine to. In the above video, the director takes us back to his early days at Florida State University’s film program, explaining the way he connected to My Josephine’s characters, how the cooking show Nigella Bites served as an unlikely stylistic inspiration, and the soft spot he still has for his eight-minute experiment in form. “Winning an Oscar was cool; watching My Josephine for the first time—that was life-changing,” he says. “It’s probably my favorite piece I’ve ever done.”

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