In honor of Black History Month, I would like to shine a light on not only my favorite movie but a movie that aided in the breakthrough of Black filmmaking. “Moonlight” directed by Barry Jenkins is a remarkable 2017 Oscar-winning coming-of-age drama. In my personal opinion, this film deserves all the hype.
“Moonlight” is an adaptation of Tarell McCraney’s unproduced play, “In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue”. The movie has a three-act structure and takes place in the 1980s. Each act is titled for what the main character, Chiron, is called at the time the act takes place: Little, Chiron and Black. In each act, Chiron is in vastly different stages of life. There are three separate actors playing Chiron in each of these stages. Interestingly enough, the three actors never met during “Moonlight’s” production. Somehow still, their characters flow and grow so seamlessly. This seamless acting can be traced to the skill and sensibility of Jenkins.
The film follows Chiron’s fight to simply become himself. According to a SPIN article, “Moonlight is a film conscious of how failing institutions destroy the Black community: Institutionalized Black men replace drug dealers, and a surrogate father (Juan, played compassionately by Mahershala Ali) can only do so much good if he’s also making a living by selling crack to a mother…But these cycles are mentioned in passing as checkpoints in a brutal reality. What makes this film a frontrunner for film of the year  is its central, the process of establishing identity-that queerness and race are not biological traits, but rather sociological ideas.” The film shows how as we grow and interact with society, our identity evolves along with us and we will be forced to fight the perceptions and burdens.
There is a high expectation of masculinity in society, specifically for Black men. “Moonlight” is an examination of the fragility of Black masculinity. According to a One Room with a View article, “as Chiron grows older, he recognizes the need to conform to this heteronormative idea of Black masculinity. He has two choices: embrace his sexuality in the knowledge it will open him up to abuse and hatred or perform the identity of a straight Black male and live a quieter life.” Jenkins includes scenes where the characters ‘break the third wall’ and look directly into the camera. He makes the audience responsible for examining the body language of the character.
The film is very subtle, it is not made to be showy. You have to look for the beauty inside the film on your own. The movie is told almost through color and I find that very beautiful. For example, in the movie red indicates evil and bad things to come. Often in the film antagonists will appear wearing red or in front of red doors. Yellow indicates cowardice and fear, white indicates friendship and trust and black indicates toughness. These colors are not even the end of the color symbolism used in the movie. Jenkins is masterful in his use of colors to set mood and tone and tell a story. It is very clear why the film was awarded Best Picture at the Oscars.
The film has racked up a ridiculous number of awards from multiple different organizations. Some of the most notable include Best Picture and Best Supporting Actor, Mahershala Ali, at the Oscars. $1.5 million was spent to make the film and it unsurprisingly achieved significant financial success earning $75 million opening in the US alone. The success of the film demonstrates the vitality of having people of color behind and in front of the camera telling their stories. Moonlight can be streamed on Netflix.