Eight nominations for ‘Moonlight’ is a victory for unheard voices everywhere

The film also shows fragility and rejects ideals of masculinity


2016 was horrible for everyone, but it was particularly bad for minorities. I was sickened by the Orlando attack that resulted in the deaths of so many innocent people. I was sickened all over again when I got into a car with my straight friends the day after and nobody said a word about it. Politics students silent with Je Suis Charlie still in their Twitter bios.

To me it was an elephant in the room, or the 2002 Nissan Micra as we mindlessly chatted about nothing, rolling through Essex.

This might not seem relevant but it is everything. Moonlight shares the voice of a person through three distinct parts of his life, he is black, poor and coming to terms with being gay. It is set in the 80s, Reagan’s war-on-drugs era that doesn’t seem so far away from the poisonous rhetoric that just won the election.

The film, based on the play In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue by Tarell Alvin McCraney, tells the devastating story of the life of Chiron (played by Alex R. Hibbert, Ashton Sanders and Trevante Rhodes). He lives in Miami and is neglected by his drug addict mother and mercilessly bullied at school, finding refuge in a local drug dealer (Mahershala Ali) and his girlfriend (Janelle Monáe) who care for him like surrogate parents.

The film rejects many stereotypes often seen in films like this. Tarell Alvin McCraney spoke about the drug dealer character, Juan, who takes in Chiron, and said: “It often pains me when people see him and go “oh well that’s unusual” but when I think back on my life I can think of many times I have run into people like him and I wonder why are we silencing that story”.

He went on to say that Juan was based on a person he knew growing up. The film also shows fragility and rejects ideals of masculinity; at one point a teenage Chiron asks another boy if he cries and follows on to say “sometimes I cry so much I think I will turn into drops”.

Andre Holland who plays the love interest of Chiron said in an interview that the film “shows so many different shades to masculinity, to manhood”. It is important to note that Moonlight is unapologetically black and gay and does not attempt to make itself appeal more to the general viewer. It is also artistic, using colour and stunning cinematography to symbolise feelings and themes and using a violin piece by Nicholas Britell, written especially for the film.

2017, the 89th Oscars is one of the most representative years there has ever been, with nominations for best picture including Fences, Hidden Figures and Lion alongside Moonlight, all including many persons of colour which follows into the nominations for actors. This is a massive movement from just two years ago in 2015 when Selma went practically unnoticed by the Academy.

Moonlight could arguably not be released at a more politically relevant time.