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“MOONLIGHT”

“In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue…”


Behind the Moonlight…

Moonlight, the beautiful screen adaptation of Tarell Alvin McCraney‘s play “In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue“, is a semi-autobiographical film based on McCraney‘s life growing up young, poor, black and gay in inner city Miami, Florida with an addict as mother; akin to the films protagonist, Chiron. The films director, Barry Jenkins shares a similar affinity with McCraney in which, apart from being straight, he too grew up in a poor black neighbourhood in Miami with a mother addicted to crack cocaine. Both writers coincidently attended the same high school, although years apart and having never met prior to the making of Moonlight

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McCraney undertook the writing of his play as therapy for himself shortly after his mother died of AIDS in 2003. Some years later, and multiple failed attempts at getting the play produced on stage, McCraney’s script was then sent to Barry Jenkins by a friend. After various Skype conversations together, Moonlight‘s future director, Jenkins knew this was the perfect film to follow up his debut “Medicine for Melancholy“. 

When asked about his vision behind Moonlight in an interview with Rolling Stone Magazine, Jenkins clarified that “…even though my childhood was dark, you can’t say it was visually repressive…Miami is the exact opposite of that. It’s a place where you could choose to go to the beach if you want; it can be a very lush place. We knew we didn’t want to make a gritty, neo-realist urban tale about growing up in the hood. My life growing up in the hood was not miserablist. It still felt beautiful.”

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At a glance…

Last month, I was one of the lucky few who received a complimentary ticket to attend an advanced screening of the Academy Award Nominated A24 produced indie film, Moonlight; courtesy of Skin Deep . I rarely watch trailers these days as I feel the best parts are always shown in the often 3 minute (too!!!) long previews. However watching Moonlight‘s trailer for the first time, I felt there was something about what I was viewing that instantly made me feel like I need, not want, but need to see this film; I was captivated.

After the trailer had ceased, I instantaneously “liked”, “shared” and captioned the video with “Love <3 <3 <3” .

It’s trailers like Moonlight that I absolutely adore. Simply because through careful and creative editing they managed to disclose just the right amount information to entice me in without giving the whole plot away thus ruining the cinematic experience. In the 1 minute and 55 second trailer it wasn’t overtly obvious that the genre was “coming of age”, or even that the narrative was encapsulating one man’s struggle with his socially unaccepted homosexuality in 1980’s Black America. The immersive theme of identity or the lack thereof was, of course, riddled throughout the trailer with Kevin, portrayed by André Holland asking, “Who is you, Chiron?” and Juan (Mahershala Ali) telling Chiron “…at some point you gotta decide for yourself who you gone’ be.” Both respective segments of dialogue prepared me somewhat for what I knew was going to be an emotional rollercoaster ride, with no holds barred.

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Needless to say, I could have literally thrown my coins at my computer screen then and there because I knew Moonlight was going to take it one way or another, sooner or later.

So, did the film shine a light on me?

Honestly speaking, there was nothing about Moonlight that I didn’t love

From the production to the casting, the grading to the score, the performances to the dialogue – everything, just everything was perfect in creating the right combination of catharsis, intrigue, furore, tenderness-even for each character who graced the screen. I was enamoured with how Jenkins used lingering shots which hung on the faces of the characters like portraits on a blank wall, whenever a pivotal moment in their lives occurred. This beautiful technique was poetic, allowing us to crawl inside the minds of the characters, trying to connect the pieces behind each glance, each frustration, each twinge of loneliness or covered up smile.

The director, Barry Jenkins was said to have had restricted all three actors who portrayed Chiron from seeing one another’s performances prior to the filming of their own. Jenkins did this as a way to apparently achieve a more “honest” performance from them individually. In fact, the first time they all met was at the first screening of the movie. Each actor’s personal perception and performance of who Chiron was, was captured in an almost identical essence; illustrating just how strong the script must have been for them to have executed such a feat, “blind”. All three performances ensured that the narrative was viewed as an effortless linear progression or more importantly a believable progression that within each chapter the respective actors were indeed the same character, but matured.

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Moonlight‘s take on masculinity and sexuality is tackled in quite a delicate but raw manner; giving light specifically to a black queer experience on screen, which is too often shied away from in the media or  depicted as an irrevocably white experience. The motif of shifting identities in Moonlight is juxtaposed by the recurring mentioning of the ocean and how it evokes desire; a calming, familiar, safe, peaceful place but also describes how easy it is to lose your Self within it. The additional themes of abandonment, abuse, loss, and love are also tackled head on. This display highlighting how important the sense of inclusion is and without it, regardless of their own happiness, one may begin to construct a reality that they believe is the only sure way to survive.

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This can be seen in the final chapter “iii, Black” when adult Chrion, portrayed by Trevante Rhodes, seems to have transformed into someone who is completely dissimilar to the previous chapters. Juan and Kevin, the two male figures who hold much of Chiron’s fractured identity in their hands; the same hands which helped him to swim, showed him love and taught him to fight, respectively are embedded in adult Chiron’s semblance. From his nickname “Black” which was given to him by Kevin, to his “trap” lifestyle and persona which he adopted from drug dealer Juan, his self-appointed guardian and friend.

Chiron is, in essence, “moonlighting” as someone he really is not.

 You can READ the SCRIPT for free >> HERE <<

Sincerest thanks to Skin Deep for the opportunity to experience this advanced screening of such glorious film. In my opinion, Moonlight is a story that very much needed to be told and equally needed to be heard, especially with what is going on in the world today. All of the cast who was involved demonstrated an electric, yet poignant performance which at times had the audience laughing, baring tension beyond comprehension and even cheering at times of triumph.

This film is nothing short of a 5*.

Not only because it was an entertaining watch, but also because even now as I write this review I am still  transfixed by the story. Although I personally cannot relate to what Chiron was subjected to, it has truly resonated with me in a way only a creative masterpiece could. I would honestly recommend Moonlight to anyone – all ages and creeds, I implore you to watch this movie, especially those who are open to being educated on an experience that is dissimilar from their own.

I truly hope this film receives the celebration it deserves. 

#LOVEisLOVE

Moonlight hits Nationwide theatres February 17th 2017.

I’ll definitely be watching again… will you

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