“Who is You?”: Moonlight and the Social Scriptorium

Today, I have a new post up at the blog for the excellent Partially Examined Life podcast. Here’s a bit from the piece:

In a radio interview with the BBC, Moonlight director Barry Jenkins attributed the movie’s overwhelmingly positive reception to the fact that it showed filmgoers something new. Crediting cowriter Tarell Alvin McCraney, whose play In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue inspired the film, Jenkins observes, “I’ve never seen a black man cradle a black boy in any film I’ve ever seen […] I think that when you have this lack of images, and then they suddenly appear, sometimes it can you strike down […] in a good way.”

This commitment to “striking down” viewers doesn’t just influence the film’s structure: it’s the central theme. At the end of the aforementioned scene, in which the adult Juan (Mahershala Ali) teaches protagonist Chiron (played as a boy by Alex Hibbert) how to swim, the older man offers the following advice: “At some point, you gotta decide for yourself who you’re going to be. Can’t let nobody make that decision for you.” Most of the movie features Chiron doing exactly that, trying to define himself according to his own terms but ultimately failing, because he does not recognize himself in the images presented to him. He cannot see himself as a character in the stories he’s been told.

Read the rest here!

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