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‘Moonlight’ — a masterpiece

| Friday, January 20, 2017

moonlit_WEBDOMINIQUE DEMOE | The Observer

A year ago, an accomplished filmmaker and Facebook friend of mine posted a trailer to a film called “Moonlight.” The trailer’s cinematography evoked Hiro Murai’s intuitive videos for Flying Lotus’ “Never Going To Catch Me” or Kimberly Piece’s iconic and game changing “Boys Don’t Cry.” In my gut, I felt something stir. This is the film that homeless youth, the LGBTQ community, people of color and society as a whole has been waiting for.

Building off of Charles Burnett’s “Killer of Sheep” and Julie Dash’s “Daughters of the Dust,” Barry Jenkins’ three-chapter film never takes any cheap shots. Each moment meditates on getting viewers to digest the layers of a young man’s coming of age story in Miami’s housing projects. In the history of black cinema and in LGBTQ films, there has never been such a simultaneously bold, delicate, sincere and sensual cinematic reflection on intimacy.

The beauty of “Moonlight” is that the cinematography grabs poetry and paints it on the screen. Even in the cruelest of scenes — while protagonist Chiron’s (played successively by Alex Hibbert, Ashton Sanders and Trevante Rhodes) mother (Naomie Harris) screams scarring words at him — a pink light from a bare bulb lights her back ethereally. There is poetry in the bleak.

In my own world, I have been waiting for this movie. In the gay community, a flamer rarely ever crosses over to the “hood.” For flamboyant types, the hood has been hostile. The “ghetto” is the place where gay kids build an armor never to be removed. The hard layers of survival mute any possibility to translate your shame, confusion and excitement — survival takes your words and all you have left are your feelings. And images. Which explains how we have “Moonlight.”

At the core of “Moonlight” is a person who has been deprived of his own life as he struggles just to survive, ridiculed constantly at school and at home. Chiron is a person who has been so disconnected from any human affection that he struggles to communicate.

One criticism of the LGBTQ movement is that is has left out people of color. It has largely been an upper-middle-class, white-collar movement. To get “Moonlight,” an intersectional story in the form of cinematic art and not a public service announcement, is a miracle.

Every film is political, but “Moonlight” goes farther — breaking down stereotypes and eliminating knee-jerk casting. This is the film that humanity has been waiting for. This is the film that will humanize us.

“Moonlight” will be playing at the DeBartolo Performing Arts Center this weekend. The showings are 6:30 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, as well as a 3 p.m. Sunday showing. Tickets are $4 for students.

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