Moonlight (2016)

BLACK as portrayed by Trevante Rhodes, CHIRON as portrayed by Ashton Sanders, LITTLE as portrayed by Alex Hibbert, KEVIN as portrayed by Jaden Piner, Jharrel Jerome and Andre Holland in Moonlight (2016)

It's a no brainer that the first film about Black gay men to win Academy Awards would be included in this series, and so here we have Moonlight. For those that don't know, Tarell Alvin McCraney was an accomplished playwright well before this film was made, and his work has always centered the stories of Black gay men. I remember very vividly when I encountered his work at Yale Cabaret. It was a short play called "Without Sin" and it was the first time I really felt like a stage work cracked open my mind and my heart and put it on stage. Tarell's work is not the first to unpack the complex web of feelings and emotions of Black gay men, but his work is unique in that it regularlyinterrogates that complicated Black gay adolescence and coming of age. In Moonlight, we watch a young boy who is pegged as "different" grow up in a harsh environment where he's dealt blow after blow that seems to force him further inward. Director and screenwriter Barry Jenkins took Tarell's story and further added more texture and nuance with masterful and sensitive direction of some really great performances. I appreciate this film for a multitude of reasons. For one, it's story resonated with me in deeply personal ways. Secondly, it was a bold and clear statement that proves that stories about Black gay men are ultimately stories about the human condition, and can appeal to all audiences. Moonlight is clear about its content and its subjects, but it centers an individual as a specific person with unique and specific circumstances, rather than as an archetype for a whole community. I think this leads to a truly nuanced and impactful artistic product that is indeed worthy of the mantle bestowed upon it.

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