Barry Jenkins Q&A: ‘Moonlight’ director/writer
“We made the movie with no expectations,” admits Barry Jenkins during our recent webcam chat (watch our interview above) when asked about the eight Oscar nominations amassed by his film “Moonlight,” including two for him for writing and directing. The A24 release, which centers on Chiron, a young black gay man struggling to find his place in a rough Miami neighborhood, “is not built to engender these kinds of results. So it’s been an overwhelmingly amazing experience because it showed that people have come to the film, to meet it on its own terms, which I think is what any creative hopes for.” Including the two bids for Jenkins, “Moonlight” also contends for Best Picture, Best Supporting Actor (Mahershala Ali), Best Supporting Actress (Naomie Harris), Best Cinematography, Best Film Editing, and Best Original Score.
Jenkins, who grew up in Miami, adapted the script from a play by Tarell Alvin McCraney called “In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue”. “I thought Tarell had done just a wonderful job of capturing the voice of this place where we were from,” he recalls, “and of centering a character like Chiron. A character like this, and even the world our film is set in, usually exists on the margins of someone else’s narrative.” He adds, “I was impressed and humbled by what Tarell had attempted to undertake, and I thought, there’s a space for me to bring myself into this fully, and I hadn’t read anything that allowed me that chance up to that point.”
“Moonlight” is Jenkins’ second feature film following “Medicine for Melancholy” (2008). He is only the fourth black filmmaker, following John Singleton (“Boyz N the Hood”), Lee Daniels (“Precious”), and Steve McQueen (“12 Years a Slave”) to be nominated for Best Director. Will he make Oscar history by becoming the first to win?