The eight-year gap between Barry Jenkin’s first film Medicine for Melancholy and his sophomore follow-up Moonlight has been a source of some considerable anxiety, not only for the filmmaker himself, but for all the cinephiles eagerly awaiting Jenkins’s new work. Read More…
Moonlight had its premiere at the Telluride Film Festival in September and has gone on to garner rapturous praise from critics and audiences alike. In the interim between making his first and second feature, the #OscarSoWhite campaign highlighted the dearth of filmmakers and actors of color. But Jenkins, along with Ava DuVernay, Amma Asante, Steve McQueen, and Ryan Coogler is at the forefront of what has been termed the “black film boom.”
Moonlight, based on the play by Tarell Alvin McCraney, who grew up in the same Miami neighborhood as Jenkins, tells the story of a young boy named Chiron, coming to manhood against the rotting neon-riddled cityscape of Southern Florida. In the film adaptation, Chiron is played by three different actors each of whom brings a nuanced and delicate approach to the experience of being black, gay and marginalized in America. In an extended interview with The Fader, Jenkins talked about the process of making Moonlight: “I want to create productive images, not necessarily positive images…Overt positivity can sometimes deflect attention away from the problem, or create myths that aren’t helpful. The way I described it to the actors was, ‘Everything in this movie is a gray area. The characters are gray, the situations are gray.’ There’s some very dark shit in this movie, but you have to acknowledge the ugliness. You just have to.”
Jenkins’s approach is one of clarity, erudition and a profound poeticism that mixes sensuality with hard truth. Moonlight is a political work in that it posits the experience of being black in the US, not with the triumphant exceptionalism of a film like The Birth of a Nation, but with attention and care to a common and shared humanity.
AWFJ Movie of the Week Panelists Comments:
Pam Grady: Eight years after his arresting feature debut Medicine Melancholy, director Barry Jenkins returns with Moonlight, a riveting portrait of a gay youngster in Florida (portrayed in boyhood, adolescence, and adulthood by three separate actors) coping with his outsider status, bullying, and his mother’s addiction.
Leba Hertz: Barry Jenkins showed his talent with Medicine Melancholy and now he will be launched into the limelight with Moonlight.
Director: Barry Jenkins
Release Date: October 21, 2016
Running Time: 110 minutes
Principal Cast: Trevante Rhodes, André Holland, Janelle Monáe, Ashton Sanders, Naomie Harris, Mahershala Ali
Screenwriter: Barry Jenkins
Production Companies: A24, Plan B Entertainment, Pastel Productions
AWFJ Movie of the Week Panel Members: Thelma Adams, Nikki Baughan, Anne Brodie, Candice Frederick, Pam Grady, Leba Hertz, Loren King, Cate Marquis, Jennifer Merin, Nell Minow, Perri Nemiroff, Liz Whittemore, Jeanne Wolf
Edited by Sandra Kraisirideja, AWFJ.org Associate Editor. Written by Dorothy Woodend