Moonlight. I can’t think of another instance where the complexities of manhood, particularly of the black – queer male, entranced me entirely for a full hour and 51 minutes.
Eversince its release, endless webs of discussion have been spun on the themes explored in this film. I remember the first time I saw the triad of main actors, their faces, filtered in blue, purple and pink hues, sailed up my Facebook timeline, an image peered with the Afropunk article “WHAT IT WAS LIKE WATCHING ‘MOONLIGHT’ AS A QUEER BLACK MAN (FILM REVIEW)”. My interest peaked, not because I am a queer black man (I am not), but because I knew this would be like nothing else I had seen before. However, I allowed my curiosity to stop then and there. I lived in south-east Asia at the time and knew good and well that this would come nowhere near Taiwan’s Cinemas.
Months later, after the wave washed over the film world solidifying Moonlight as an Avant- Garde masterpiece and Barry Jenkins as a bonafide director/ screenwriter virtuoso, catching the ripples I was able to get my fix and fall in love.
Technicalities (which as a self proclaimed filmmaker made up a large part of the reason this film impacted me the way it did) aside, part two, I.e ‘ii. Chiron’ of this movie left me undone and I won’t miss this chance to hail Ashton Sanders for his flawless performance. Sanders’ character, a young, black, teen male, meekly moving through his life, physically hunched forward from the figurative bricks on his shoulders, eyes glistening with loneliness; a picture of a child performing a grim juggling act with individuality, sexuality, exclusion and parental neglect, stuck out most for me.
While I was devouring the film scene by scene, Sanders’ performance forced me to question myself; What pre-conceived ideas did I have when it came to the images of black men? What expectations did I hold on how these men were supposed to move through the world? Was I culprit to drawing the rigid lines that box black men in and perpetuates ideas that there can be no gray area, even for self-exploration and discovery. I thought of a friend I had in my teens who coincidentally shared Chiron’s skin-tone, stature and mannerisms. Although we never directly spoke about his sexuality and having witnessed nothing to attribute to, I remembered how my mind was wrongly made up, ‘he is gay’. That was not my place. That was insensitive and dismissive of a person’s own past and experiences as well as of his freedom to claim it and declare it for and by himself.
It has now been several weeks since I’ve seen the film yet scenes from the movie appear behind my eyes as vivid as they did on screen; Chiron engulfed in a sea of bodies, dissolving into the school corridor wallpaper, a wide shot of Chiron walking on the street alone, his adversaries slithering into frame, their altercation, proceeded by Chiron’s repressed anger. All these against a vibrant, colorful Miami street backdrop adding to the mastery that is Moonlight.
I am not an African-American male growing up in the hood with a mother addicted to crack, struggling with and suppressing my sexuality and identity but I could feel the movie’s importance. I could also feel my teen self looking at ii.Chiron, feeling his exclusion, loneliness, repressed self-expression, necessary self-reliance, and finding a point of understanding. I think if most people allowed themselves they would see themselves or someone they knew/know in Chiron.