In a somewhat lucky bit of planning, the ASUNM Southwest Film Center will be screening “Moonlight,” this weekend, just a few days after it was named Best Picture of 2016 by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences on Sunday.
The critically acclaimed film — and cheapest Best Picture winner in the 89-year history of the Oscars — is directed by Barry Jenkins, and holds a more-than-reputable 97 percent on Rotten Tomatoes.
Moonlight follows the story of Chiron (played by Ashton Sanders), a troubled Black man growing up in drug-riddled Miami, through three distinct stages of his life. Over that span he deals with bullying, neglect, abuse, peer pressure and struggling to find his identity. Chiron’s only respite is the home of a drug dealer, Juan (played by Mahershala Ali, winner of the Academy Award for Best Support Acting), and his girlfriend, Teresa (played by Janelle Monáe).
Juan becomes a father figure to the young Chiron, encouraging him to be independent instead of reacting to peer pressure and becoming a product of his environment. But there is only so much Juan can help Chiron with, and there are some challenges that Chiron must face on his own, like coming to terms with his own sexuality.
At this year’s Academy Awards, Moonlight was nominated for eight categories, including Best Cinematography and Best Director (Barry Jenkins), and won three of those eight categories: Best Picture, Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Supporting Actor. Ali is the first Muslim to win an Academy Award.
Accolades and acclaim aside, Moonlight isn’t as accessible as other films that the mainstream audience is exposed to, utilizing very little dialogue and being very deliberate in its narrative. The film is rated R for language, sexual content, drug use and brief violence.
Fin Martinez is the culture editor for the Daily Lobo. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @FinMartinez.