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Happy Pride month to all of you! Let’s make it a good month and educate ourselves as much as possible on the LGBTQ+ community! The month of June isn’t only known for Pride but also for Juneteenth. As a European, I had never really heard of Juneteenth growing up, even though I’m Black. I only learned about it online through social media, so it really makes it important for me to celebrate this month fully! What could be better for movie lovers, like you and me, than to combine educational purposes and a good movie? Let me put you on a MASTERPIECE of a movie that will leave you with a big smile (and some tears as well)...
Moonlight, directed by Barry Jenkins is one of the greatest movies ever made. I’ve never seen anything like Moonlight and I’m pretty sure I’ll never see anything like it again. My standard for any relationship is that the person must have seen this movie. It is my go-to reference in life! Everything about the movie is wonderful: the acting, the score, the aesthetic and the themes that are addressed. All of this creates a breathtaking movie.
Can we talk about the score of this movie? Hello?? Nicholas Britell is a genius! His score on “If Beale Street Could Talk” (also by my favorite: mister Barry Jenkins) is too fucking good! His scores always have a melancholic feel that makes the scene absolutely amazing.
Moonlight is originally an adaptation of a play by Tarell Alvin McCraney. In his play, he talks about his life growing up in Liberty City, Miami, with his mom. When he was just a little boy, he was bullied for his size, for being different, silent, and not being into sports. He would get chased by bullies and called the f-slur; even when he didn’t even know what the word meant. His mom’s boyfriend, Blue, was like a father to him – it was his father figure and who he looked up to – he was the one who taught him how to ride a bike, how to swim, and more basic life lessons that his biological father never taught him.
The movie is inspired by Tarell’s life growing up, but Barry Jenkins doesn’t leave it at that. He adds depth to each character and pushes us to feel empathy throughout the duration of the movie.
The film is divided into three parts: the first, titled Little (played by Alex R. Hibbert), the second, titled Chiron (played by Ashton Sanders, who is an amazing actor and everyone should check out his other movies) and the last part, titled Black ( played by Trevante Rhodes). I’m in awe at the fact that the three different actors cast for the role didn’t meet once while filming. They each gave their own interpretation of the character, which was truly amazing. Thanks to the structure of the film, we get to see Chiron grow from a boy to a man. During the whole movie we see that preconceived idea of what a man should and shouldn’t be. Toxic masculinity, as it is called, is a bigger problem for Black men. Society has expectations of them. As a society, we expect them to be strong, hyper-masculine, tough, and vulgar,... while in most cases the men in question do not want to be that way at all.
Moonlight shows the Black gay experience from a realistic point of view. Unlike some films about the LGBTQ+ community, Moonlight doesn’t wave rainbow flags – you won’t even once see a pride flag. The movie challenges our preconception of what constitutes the gay experience on film. It’s rather sober and even dark towards the end, aesthetically speaking. This is an accurate representation of how LGBTQ+ folks, especially Black queer people, live. In most Black (and African) spaces, sexuality is taboo. You don’t talk about it, especially if you’re gay. This is depicted well in the movie: Chiron doesn’t talk about his sexuality; heterosexuality is being pushed onto him. What I mostly love about the gay narrative in Moonlight, is how Chiron always has a soft spot for Kevin (played by André Holland) and it is even more heart-warming in the third part of the movie when we see Chiron as a hyper-masculine version of himself. Meaning that toxic masculinity won’t stop men from being loving and having a soft spot for their loved ones.
My absolute favorite line in the movie is: “In moonlight, black boys look blue.” Juan (played by the amazing Mahershala Ali) explains that he was called ‘Blue’ when he was a little boy. The scene is just magical because Juan is telling Little that in life you have to choose who you want to be, and you should never let anyone make that decision for you. Be yourself.
Moonlight shines the light on what we, the Black community, experience. We have the power to choose who we want to be and should never let society decide for us.
We all know a Chiron or maybe we have a little bit of Chiron in ourselves. So, to all the Chiron’s out there: be unapologetically you.
Amani Nsanzabandi Gasore lives in Brussels, Belgium. She is soon graduating to pursue film studies. This is Amani’s first time doing a film recommendation for Movie Night!
Written by Barry Jenkins; Directed by Barry Jenkins
Stray Thoughts from the Editor
Happy Juneteenth! Excited doesn’t even begin to describe how I feel about Amani’s guest post this week. Working with her has been a delight, and reading her perspective on her favorite film has deepened my appreciation for Moonlight. My friend, Cam Miller, took me to see the movie in theaters in 2019, when it came out, and we were both blown away. Neither of us had seen a Barry Jenkins film and he was immediately added to the “ride-or-die” directors list. Thank you again Cam for pushing us to go see this.
Reading Amani’s recommendation this week reminded me of how exciting it was to see this film play out, slowly burning itself into our brains. I’m going to take Amani’s advice and queue this up for my next movie night.