In celebration of Black History Month, we’re making daily movie recommendations, presented in chronological order of the films’ stories.
Stay tuned to Noovie every day as we highlight an original, landmark film worth revisiting or discovering for the first time.
February 27 – Moonlight (2016)
Writer-director Barry Jenkins adapts Tarell Alvin McCraney’s unpublished, semi-autobiographical play “In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue” into the powerful, emotional motion picture experience, “Moonlight.”
Winner of the 2016 Academy Award for Best Picture, it’s the story of a young African-American named Chiron, raised in a tough Miami neighborhood, at three different points in his life, as he struggles at home, in the community and with his peers to reconcile his true sexual identity with the toxic masculine culture and attitudes that surround him.
Jenkins and McCraney, who both grew up in the same inner-city neighborhoods in Miami, tell a highly personal story here, shot completely on location. The movie covers three different time periods.
In the first section, we meet young Chiron as a boy (Alex Hibbert) who goes by the nickname “Little.” While his drug-addicted mother Paula (Naomie Harris) leaves him mostly to fend for himself, Little finds a mentor in local drug dealer Juan (Mahershala Ali) and Juan’s girlfriend, Teresa (Janelle Monae). Juan, though, is more than meets the eye. He’s empathetic to young Chiron’s struggles, and does his best to guide and mentor him down a path and purpose to become a strong individual who will defy his conditions. When Juan learns of the bullying that Chiron has suffered due to his developing identity as a gay youth, he shows compassion, and lets Chiron know that is okay to be his true self.
The second part of the film deals with teen Chiron (Ashton Sanders) and the torments he experiences from school bully Terrel (Patrick Decile), as well as Chiron’s growing friendship with childhood buddy Kevin (Jharrel Jerome). Together at the beach, the two enjoy a romantic moment, but it’s not long before an act of violence with their peers leads to their separation.
The last part of the film deals with a grown Chiron, who’s served time, assumed a tough persona named “Black,” and is now dealing drugs in Atlanta. Issues of childhood abandonment come to the fore when he’s reunited with his mom, who’s come to sincerely regret her past actions. Chiron also takes a trip home to Miami to visit Kevin, who’s now a single dad. While it’s been years since they’ve seen each other, the seemingly hardened Chiron breaks down and shares an intimate secret.
In a moment of cinematic grace, he’s met with friendship, acceptance and love.
“Moonlight” is an artistic statement and triumph that goes a long way in deconstructing facades of bravado to reveal true identity, vulnerability and humanity. The film won Best Picture at the Oscars in a scene straight out of the movies, when “La La Land” was mistakenly announced first as the winner (corrected by that film’s producer and then bestowed on “Moonlight”).
That circumstance, though, isn’t the real legacy. “Moonlight” is an original film classic - the first film with an all-black cast, and the first LGBTQ film, to win the movie industry’s top award.
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About the Author
Chuck is an editor/writer who's worked for NCM, Fandango, Movies.com, MediaTrip, Hollywood.com and Newsweek. His favorite movie is "Jaws." He's definitely a dog guy.