Masculinity in Miami's "Moonlight"

Moonlight is a must see film.

Written and directed by Barry Jenkins, Moonlight is based on an unproduced play: In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue by Tarell Alvin McCraney. Jenkins and McCraney are both from the same housing projects in Miami and have similar backgrounds but never met until they worked together in the film industry. Jenkins struggled with the release of this film because it was very personal; involving his and McCraney’s similar upbringing and sexuality through the main character, Chiron.

Image courtesy indiewire

Moonlight focuses on Chiron’s life and identity through his childhood, teenage, and adult years. Each segment was filmed independently with three different actors (Alex Hibbert, Ashton Sanders, and Trevante Rhodes) as Chiron. Because Moonlight was filmed in 25 days with no rehearsal time, the cast never had interaction with actors outside of their segment.

Both actresses Janelle Monáe and Naomie Harris were taken out of their element with the characters they played. Monáe’s limited screen experience was not noticeable in her role as Chiron’s segregate mother and girlfriend to drug dealer Juan (Mahershala Ali). On the other hand, Harris struggled with portraying Chiron’s mother, Paula, for face value and not placing a negative judgment on her character.

Jenkins portrayed the life and struggles of black men, regardless of sexuality, perfectly. In a question and answer session after the viewing of Moonlight with Ashton Sanders and Mahershala Ali; the question of whether this film was intended to dismantle the hyper-masculine image of a black male in society was raised.

Image courtesy

Ashton Sanders said, “It was definitely important. Masculinity and the social masks that we walk around with in society was a big thing. It was about time for the story to be told.” Sanders later asked Ali to add to the discussion. “I think when things are done, is when we get to start dissecting them,” said Ali.

Ali later applauded Jenkins for his ability to not only direct but write the screenplay. Ali commented that “Barry was brave,” for allowing his script to go into the hands of the actors and actresses and trust them enough that they would do his story justice.

During the Q&A session there were a few questions about what happened to key characters or key elements of the plot. “From the silence comes conversation,” said Ali referring to the long walking shots of Chiron throughout the film that added to the emotion surrounding that particular event. Ali said, “Those 20-30 seconds shots allow the viewers to walk with the character.”

Ali and Sander’s wrapped up the Q&A by thanking the audience and leaving us with their future projects. Ali will be starring in a few films that come out later this year and early 2017. Sanders said, “I want to stay true and I’m continuing to read scripts.” While not fully divulging his next project but promising more feature films to come.

Moonlight’s diverse casts with different levels experience and different platforms created and told a beautiful story. The real star of Moonlight would definitely be Barry Jenkins. His ability to tell and teleport viewers into a challenging story was pure genius.

Image courtesy indiewire

To catch a glimpse of Jenkins’ masterpiece, Moonlight, visit