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New Ways of Seeing: Moonlight

From Amy Dotson, NWFC Director and PAM Curator, Film & New Media
Moonlight
Director: dir. Barry Jenkins, United States
Available on Kanopy and Netflix

When most folks think “tryptic” they think about painting—lush colors, multi-textural landscapes and the power of light to make things come alive that otherwise are nothing but flat. And in a way, Barry Jenkins’ Moonlight is a painting—and a film, a short story and a mysterious movement all spun into one. Based on Tarell Alvin McCraney’s unproduced play In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue, the Academy Award Best Picture winner guides its viewers through the life of Chiron in three movements: as a picked-on kid nicknamed Little, a teen silently finding his way towards what it means to be a man, and young macho guy filled with self-hate finally accepting who he is. Watching this character come to life, finally emerging from the stifling cocoon of his own making in the final diner scene, is something that gives me hope. It makes me weep every dang time. It reminds me of all the amazing art, music, design, costume, performance, and cinematic reimagining that went into the creation of this tryptic, harkening back to so many that came before but also wholly originally and of the now. For me, Moonlight is inspiration itself and a challenge to all who watch it to find and speak their own truth. Every time I watch it at the crossroads of my own life, I see Barry Jenkins not just as a talented filmmaker, but one of the most talented artists of our time both in his own right and how he brings out the best in others. Because like the tryptic of old, the way he makes the light dance on all it touches shows us something new about ourselves, and ultimately, illuminates the way forward.