Beverly Hills, CA—PEN America announced today that Academy Award Winning writer-director Barry Jenkins will receive the Award for Screenplay Excellence at the organization’s 2018 LitFest Gala in Los Angeles. 

Jenkins, who along with Tarell Alvin McCraney, won the Best Adapted Screenplay Oscar for Best Picture MOONLIGHT, returns with an adaptation of James Baldwin’s 1974 novel IF BEALE STREET COULD TALK, which he will be honored at November’s LitFest Gala.  He joins previously announced honorees, globally lauded artist Ai Weiwei, who will receive the Artistic Expression Award, and PEN America Trustee Marvin Putnam, recipient of the Distinguished Leadership Award.

“We are thrilled to present Barry Jenkins the 2018 Award for Screenplay for IF BEALE STREET COULD TALK at this year’s LitFest Gala. Mr. Jenkins’ work embodies PEN America’s belief in the power of words to change the world,” said Michelle Franke, Executive Director, PEN America in Los Angeles. “A faithful adaptation of James Baldwin’s novel, IF BEALE STREET COULD TALK is proof of Jenkins’ remarkable ability to connect people through story, experience, and a certain hope for the future.”

Based on the novel by James Baldwin, IF BEALE STREET COULD TALK, is 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. It is a celebration of love told through the story of a young couple, their families and their lives, trying to bring about justice through love, for love and the promise of the American dream. Annapurna is set to release the film on November 30.

Jenkins’ upcoming projects include an adaptation of Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award winner Colson Whitehead’s THE UNDERGROUND RAILROAD for Amazon, which he will pen and direct.

Now in its 28th year, PEN America’s LitFest Gala is a celebration of free expression and the literary arts. Each year, the event brings together impassioned tributes, conversation, and levity before an esteemed audience of authors, screenwriters, producers, showrunners, executives, philanthropists, actors, and devotees of the written word who share a commitment to the robust defense of creative freedom in Los Angeles and around the world. Proceeds from PEN America’s LitFest Gala support initiatives including: advocacy for writers, journalists, and artists threatened or imprisoned worldwide; landmark research that addresses critical free speech issues; and the advancement of literary excellence and cross-cultural exchanges through hallmark initiatives, including the World Voices Festival of International Literature, PEN America’s Literary Awards, and fellowship and grants programs. Recently honored luminaries and participants 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.

 For more information on the PEN America’s 2018 LitFest Gala, please visit


PEN America stands at the intersection of literature and human rights to protect open expression in the United States and worldwide. We champion the freedom to write, recognizing the power of the word to transform the world. Our mission is to unite writers and their allies to celebrate creative expression and defend the liberties that make it possible.


Elyse Weissman, SLATE PR:

Tracey Kardash, PEN America, Deputy Director of Development:

Michele Riggio, PEN America, Director of Communications: