By Christian Yosef
Elm Staff Writer
A lot of incredible films came out this past decade, with some of my favorites being “Fruitvale Station,” “Get Out,” “Tangerine,” and “Whiplash.” However, what I found to be the most important film that came out in the 2010s has to be the 2016 independent film “Moonlight.”
There are several reasons why I am so mesmerized by this film. One critical component that contributed to my enjoyment of the film is how it broke down several stereotypes. Numerous movies and television shows have frequently portrayed LGBTQ characters in a negative or stereotypical spotlight. Some examples include Ray Wilkins from ‘Scary Movie,’ Matthew MacDell from ‘Big Mouth,’ and Brüno Gehard from ‘Brüno.’
The film, written and directed by Barry Jenkins, offered a new perspective to audiences on a black man from America and his interactions with his sexual identity. Viewers can see how the main character, Chiron, struggles with his identity as he is in an environment that spreads homophobia and hate. This evolves from a social culture of toxic masculinity.
‘Moonlight’ also challenges the stereotypical characteristics of drug dealers with the character of Juan, performed by Mahershala Ali. Juan is a complicated character, as the audience might have difficulties labeling him as an honorable individual or a villain, since he is the root cause of Chiron’s mother’s addiction to drugs. Regardless, he acts as a father figure to a young Chiron, later teaching the young boy how to swim and assists the young Chiron in becoming comfortable with his sexuality, as he knows it is difficult to be a gay man in their environment.
The acting in “Moonlight” was also outstanding. Ali became the first Muslim to win an Oscar, in addition to the film being the first to win the Best Picture award with LGBTQ-related themes and an all-black cast. Ali portrayed Juan to be a nuanced character that was compassionate, and caring, while also slick and confident. Naomie Harris, who played Chiron’s mother, was a scene-stealer that was able to make her character integral to the plot of the story.
“It’s not about you,” Ali said in his 2017 Oscar acceptance speech for Best Supporting Actor, in regards to the relationship between an actor and a character. “It’s about these characters. You’re in service to these stories, to these characters.”
Harris’ character, specifically, is seen in the beginning of the film as a drug addict raising a child alone. Her acting is able to make viewers see how addiction not only impacts the individual’s life, but a family and the surrounding community. This film also gave a spotlight to new and bright actors, with a supporting cast comprised of Trevante Rhodes, Jharrel Jerome, Alex Hibbert, and Ashton Sanders.
This groundbreaking film challenged audiences to rethink stereotypes they might have regarding the LGBTQ+ and black communities. The film ended up on critics’ top ten lists for 2016, with The New York Times, The Washington Post, and Time Magazine proclaiming it to be the best film of the year. ‘Moonlight’ also managed to accomplish incredible feats at the Academy Awards, which included Best Picture and Best Adapted Screenplay.
If you have not seen ‘Moonlight’ yet, I encourage you to watch it, as this film will shift your perspective on those around you through its compassion and interest.