I stayed up all night on sunday to watch the 89th Academy awards, because for the first time in forever I had a real horse in the race. Moonlight, the coming of age film about a young drug dealer growing up in the projects of Liberty City, Miami. Adapted from the autobiographical play by playwright and MacArthur fellow Tarell Alvin McClaney In the Moonlight Black Boys Bleed Blue, a storyline that surprisingly mirrors Jenkin’s own childhood in Liberty City.
The film’s protagonist Chiron struggles with his sexuality in a world that expects more from him than he can give and a mother whose dependence on narcotics turns her into his worst adversary. Several events happen in Chiron’s life that forces him to build a near impenetrable exterior, though a fragility remains from his childhood, fostered by a chance encounter with an older drug dealer who steps in as a father figure. There is nary a person of colour who watches Moonlight and doesn’t see themselves reflected in the film’s characters in some way. There is no LGBT of person of colour who cannot relate to Chiron.
To see LGBT people of colour given such a beautiful voice, such humanity by Barry Jenkins and the entire Moonlight cast and crew was beautiful and when it was announced that the film had been nominated for a number of awards, including best picture, Best director for Jenkins, Best supporting actor for Mahershala Ali (for his stunning portrayal of Juan, the older Cuban drug dealer who is the first person to show Chiron kindness) and best adapted screenplay; I felt if I didn’t personally stay up to see the telecast perhaps something would go wrong.
Moonlight won Best Screenplay for McCraney’s work, Best supporting actor for Ali and lost out for best director for Jenkins. And after the worst snafu in television award show history, Moonlight won Best Picture. Twitter erupted in joy, black, gay joy. It was beautiful to see.
This is the first time an LGBT film wins Best Picture in the history of the academy awards, and for it to be won by an all-black cast telling a story that beautiful is kismet. Our stories deserve to be told with dignity and humanity. We deserve dignity and humanity.
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