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Moonlight shines beyond convention

Samantha Navas, Publicity Editor

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After its premiere at the Telluride Film Festival, “Moonlight” began to stir up some buzz amongst critics. “Moonlight,” a film depicting a gay black man’s coming of age in Miami throughout three chapters of his life, is based on the life of the playwright, Tarell Alvin McCraney. McCraney had originally written “Moonlight” as a play entitled, “In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue,” for a school drama project.

“Moonlight” captures its audience magnificently with its alluring, high-contrast colors and heavy brass scored soundtrack. We sit through three chapters of Chiron’s life, a not-so-typical gay black man, from his adolescence to his mid twenties. Each chapter takes the viewer through a vivid story of life, detailing the main character’s struggles. Chiron is a character the audience will sympathize with throughout “Moonlight.”

Barry Jenkins, the director, taps into the crucial life experiences Chiron faces, and weaves in shades of blue, a significant color within the narrative. “Moonlight” is profoundly depressing. It feels all too real and Chiron is a kind of character that feels tangible when watching the movie, despite being a boy of strikingly few words. And the fact that the three actors who portrayed Chiron throughout the movie’s three chapters never met only adds to the beauty and brilliance of “Moonlight.”

While “Moonlight” has a somber tone, it is not a direct attack to the emotions. It carries subtle details, the quiet and observant imagery and its fluid culture are done in ways that will leave imprints in your mind.

The film is not your traditional gay narrative. There is no coming out scene. There is no defining moment in which Chiron has an awakening and declares to the world that he is gay and things either go well… or go terribly. It is simply always there, intertwined within his life in the most subtle ways. While he deals with sensitive topics like drug abuse and bullying, Chiron’s sexuality is often touched upon but never explicitly stated. This allows Chiron to grow exponentially as a person and allows him to deal with issues in his own ways.

The importance of the movie lies within the characters themselves and the execution of the actors playing them. Many highly-anticipated movies that contain LGBTQ+ characters are usually played by white men, and black characters are few and far between.

The “conventional” LGBTQ+ movies will more than likely show white men or women dealing with “the gay issue.” That, or at times, the stories will even be straight-washed, and characters that are originally shown as a part of the LGBTQ+ community are suddenly heterosexual and cisgender.

For many in the non-white LGBTQ+ community, the movie is a celebration of their mere existence, something Hollywood has regularly denied them.

And the representation of race is also prominent in the film, given that the entire cast of “Moonlight” is black. In early 2016, the Academy faced intense scrutiny for the lack of diversity in Oscar nominations. Just a year later, “Moonlight” was nominated for eight Oscars, including Supporting Actor and Cinematography and unexpectedly won Best Picture. The recognition of “Moonlight” for its beauty, all the while sharing a moving true story of a young man and the struggles of his life, is vital exposure to the masses of young and old. It shows the fight some must face in their lives based upon traits they cannot control such as sexuality and race.

“Moonlight” very much shares the difficulties faced by black LGBTQ+ people within their own communities and addresses the homophobia that is still very prevalent within aforementioned communities. Over the course of the three chapters, Chiron grows to quietly accept his homosexuality, dealing with the subtle and, at times, outright harshness of homophobia and the frailness of masculinity that comes with it. The audience is exposed to the practically real-life footage of the way black men are treated and the harm that is done to them through the progression of their life. It shows the cruel constraints of masculinity, through the ways Chiron is beaten by his classmates repeatedly, and the sensitivity of sexuality with Chiron’s exploration of sexual interests.  

The blatant depiction of this story in an award-winning movie allows for people to see a story not frequently told and the repercussions of the negative treatment that Chiron faces — and feel the same onslaught of emotions as well.

In “Little,” the film’s first chapter, Juan (Best Supporting Actor-winner Mahershala Ali) imparts a poignant message to a young Chiron, “At some point, you gotta decide for yourself who you’re going to be. Can’t let nobody make that decision for you.” And “Moonlight” is the gut-wrenching embodiment of that advice.

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The online student newspaper of Palisades Charter High School
Moonlight shines beyond convention