In the 2016 film Moonlight, a black boy comes of age in Liberty City, a housing project in Miami. His name is Chiron, he has few friends, a mother who is an addict, and is gradually realizing that he is gay.

Barry Jenkins, the screenwriter and director of the Academy Award winning film, said the response to the story since the film was released has left him hopeful for his main character.

“Thinking of it now, and how much the movie has meant to people who lived that experience, I kind of want to see the glass half-full,” he said. “I think that maybe there is a beautiful version of the world.”

Mr. Jenkins will come to the Island next week to take part in the Martha’s Vineyard African American Film Festival, which runs from August 6 through 11. Speaking with the Gazette by phone, he recalled learning about the response to Moonlight among viewers in Japan.

Barry Jenkins, screenwriter and director of Moonlight, closes the festival.

“Some of the critics there were talking to me about how Japanese businessmen really responded to the film because they have to go out in their work life and perform this very macho, alpha-man persona,” he said. “And it ends up bleeding into the way they are with their families.”

As to whether he ever expected Japanese businessmen to relate to the story of a kid growing up in a housing project in Miami, he said, “That is the power of cinema.”

Mr. Jenkins will close this year’s festival on August 11 with a discussion and screening of selected clips from his newest film, an adaptation of James Baldwin’s 1974 novel, If Beale Street Could Talk. The novel tells the story of a young couple living in Harlem after the man is falsely accused of sexual assault and jailed. The woman finds out she is pregnant with his child and rushes to prove his innocence.

Mr. Jenkins wrote the screenplay for If Beale Street Could Talk before he had the rights to the book, a move he said was “ill-advised,” but rights or no rights, the prospect of taking on the work of James Baldwin was an intimidating one. He wrote the first draft in Berlin around the same time he adapted the script for Moonlight from Tarell Alvin McCraney’s play, In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue.

“It was really just about, you know, you’re never not going to be afraid of this,” he said. “You just do it.”

He said he is excited to show parts of the film, which is in the final editing stages, to the Vineyard audience.

“When it’s inside your head for as long as it’s been in my head, you can’t wait to share it with people,” he said. “Especially because I assume there will be a high concentration in this audience of people who are familiar with Baldwin’s work.”

That audience has grown significantly since the first festival 16 years ago. Founded as a side project by Stephanie and Floyd Rance, the festival has rapidly gained prominence.

“In the last five years, the festival sort of exploded,” Ms. Rance told the Gazette. Organizing it and a sister festival in Washington D.C. has become her full time job. “This year, with all the big content and talent that’s coming, it feels massive,” she said.

Another high profile guest will be Tarana Burke, activist and founder of the #MeToo movement. Her unifying phrase went viral last year, resulting in a cascade of revelations about powerful men in media and other fields. Ms. Burke’s discussion will be moderated by cultural critic Dream Hampton and will be sponsored by the American Heart Association. It will focus on the impacts of social injustice on health.

Spike Lee, recently on East Chop filming his Netflix series, opens the festival. — Jeanna Shepard

The documentary, Maynard, about the first black mayor of Atlanta, Maynard Jackson Jr., will screen with a panel discussion to follow featuring Atlanta’s current mayor and Vineyard summer resident Keisha Lance Bottoms. The discussion will be moderated by Buzzfeed political reporter Darren Sands.

Television will be represented too with a screening of the season three premiere of the hit HBO series, Insecure. Yvonne Orji, one of the show’s co-stars, will be in attendance.

For the first time there will be a live concert with Grammy-nominated artists Angie Stone, PJ Morton and the Woo Factor. “That’s a whole new thing that we’re venturing into, adding music to the festival,” Ms. Rance said.

On opening night, director Spike Lee will join a discussion and screen clips of his new film BlacKkKlansman about a black police officer who infiltrated the Ku Klux Klan in Colorado Springs, Co. in 1979.

“Spike has been a supporter of the festival for so many years, so we’re happy about that,” Ms. Rance said of the discussion. Mr. Lee is a summer resident of the Vineyard and has been shooting scenes for his Netflix series, She’s Gotta Have It, on the Island.

Though the festival was less well-known in its early years, Moonlight director Mr. Jenkins said he was in college when he first heard about it.

“For the group of filmmakers that I grew up with, that I came up with, it’s definitely a festival that’s always talked about,” he said.

He has been a part of the Telluride film festival for over a decade, and he said these destination events offer filmmakers an enclave where they can be entirely absorbed in art and conversation, a beautiful version of the world.

“When you get there, there’s nothing to do but be immersed,” he said. “To go to a place like Martha’s Vineyard and just be in communion with all these beautiful people of color who have nothing to do but engage, discuss and ingest cinema, I think it’s a very privileged experience.”

The festival will run from August 6 to August 11 at the Performing Arts Center. Tickets can be purchased at the door or online at