The importance of ‘Moonlight’ for the Oscar season

The importance of ‘Moonlight’ for the Oscar season

The importance of ‘Moonlight’ for the Oscar season
January 17
15:31 2017

Gabriela Macias | Staff Writer

Few films have had the capacity to make me question, feel heartbreak and realize the importance of the story being told.

“Moonlight” is one of those films, which many people know as the winner of the Golden Globe for Best Picture Drama and the frontrunner for the upcoming Academy Awards. It’s a breathtaking reminder of the importance of representation in the film industry. This is rare for a movie of color, especially since this film doesn’t have the usual Hollywood formula that would make it such an obvious pick.

Directed by Barry Jenkins, it tells the coming-of-age story of a black boy living in a rough Miami neighborhood. Based on the play “In Moonlight, Black Boys Look Blue” by Tarell Alvin McCraney, the film explores the themes of manhood, love, race, sexuality and identity.

The film is a beautiful invitation into the life of Chiron, demonstrated in the film through three different acts. As a boy (Alex Hibbert), teenager (Ashton Sanders) and adult (Trevante Rhodes), his character arc is punctuated by fright and confusion.

The first time we see Chiron is when he runs away from a group of boys. We quickly understand the vulnerability of the character. In this scene he meets a drug dealer named Juan (Mahershala Ali), who becomes the closest thing he has to a father figure. His mother Paula, played astonishingly by Naomie Harris, is an absent single parent who goes from casually smoking crack to being absolutely consumed by it.

These relationships become the markers of his life, experienced through characters who are not easily pigeonholed as “drug dealer” or “addict.” Within this complexity, we see the brilliant awareness of Barry Jenkins, not in his attempt to humanize the characters, but how he delves into the lives of fully realized people without being emotionally manipulative.

Jenkins tells this story by dropping the audience into the streets of a foreign neighborhood, but at the same time it’s all too familiar. Because of this disorienting beginning, “Moonlight” allows viewers to grow with Chiron.

It is films like “Moonlight,” “Hidden Figures,” “12 Years a Slave” and “Selma” – all award season favorites – that give America glances into the reality of being a minority.

While the #OscarsSoWhite campaign had its problems, the prospect of telling diverse stories allows audiences to stop and listen to one another. In times like these, when we couldn’t be more divided, “Moonlight” and its ilk ring truer than ever.

Jenkins’ specific film is an exposé into the façade of black Americans, and how many black men grow up believing masculinity lies in having a rock-solid exterior. At the same time, it is difficult to pinpoint a single subject that this film is about, because what makes it so magnificent is how it never intends to be just one thing.

Worthy of every one of its Oscar nominations, “Moonlight” reminds viewers of the importance and value in everyone’s story. If it wins the prestigious Best Picture, the #OscarsSoWhite allegations of yesteryear can finally be satiated.

Featured Illustration: Antonio Mercado

About Author

Preston Mitchell

Preston Mitchell

Preston served as the Opinion Editor of the North Texas Daily from July 2016 to July 2017, and is a UNT graduate of integrative studies.

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