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Hamer, F. (2018). Moonlight directed by Barry Jenkins written by Barry Jenkins, based on a story by Tarell Alvin McCraney A24 Films: 2016, 111 min.. Fort Da, 24(2):102-109.
(2018). Fort Da, 24(2):102-109
Moonlight directed by Barry Jenkins written by Barry Jenkins, based on a story by Tarell Alvin McCraney A24 Films: 2016, 111 min.
Review by: Forrest Hamer, Ph.D.
The closing scene of the film involves a shot of a black boy looking at the ocean. The moonlight has made him blue according with an observation made earlier in the film, and the viewer sees him in a light different from the usual light in which black boys are viewed — this light prompts us to see him from the inside — where light has been stored — out. As he turns to meet our gaze, we see an open, calm face, one we have rarely seen throughout the film, but one briefly noticeable early on just after he has been taught to swim by a man he has come to trust. It contrasts with the first face of this boy we see, when this same man follows him into a dope hole he has been chased into by a group of taunting boys, who, as we will learn, often seek him out to beat him up. This first face is vulnerable, frightened, and wary, and the gaze communicates two questions that will mark the important relational encounters soon to unfold — What do you want from me? and, tentatively, What would you want for me?
The boy is named Chiron, but he is named “Little” at times, and “Black” at others. He is also called faggot for reasons he struggles to understand and resolve, and nigga for reasons he accepts without much thought. But we don't know what name he calls himself even at the movie's end, and this quest to name himself is integral to a quest to speak. Moonlight is a story of a black boy's development into a particular adulthood, masculinity, and sexuality — as well as how he forges a way to locate himself in the world as a valuable and loved member in community.
Chiron's quest for speech is a quest the people who care about him most want for him. And they provide it in a myriad of ways captured symbolically by their recognition of and provision for his hungers.
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