Telluride Film Festival: ‘Moonlight’ shines Oscar spotlight on writer/director Barry Jenkins

Writer/director Barry Jenkins premiered “Moonlight” at the Telluride Film Festival on Friday. This contemplative coming-of-age story, based on Tarell Alvin McCraney‘s acclaimed play “In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue,” resonated with both audiences and critics.

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This intimate movie tells the story of Chiron in three chapters spread out over 15 years beginning with a tumultuous childhood in which he is raised by a drug addict (Naomie Harris) and cared for by a drug dealer (Mahershala Ali).  We next see him in his high school years in which he begins to explore his sexuality and finally watch him transform in young adulthood. A trio of talents play the part (Alex HibbertAshton SandersTrevante Rhodes).

This A24 film is also screening at the Toronto, New York and London filmfests before opening in limited release on Oct. 21. Do you think “Moonlight” will be an Oscar contender? Check out some of the rave reviews below, and then be sure to make your Oscar predictions HERE. Don’t worry, you can keep changing your predictions right up until Oscar nominations are announced on Jan. 24.

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Peter Debruge (Variety): “‘Black’ isn’t just a race, community, or color, but one of three names by which a sexually conflicted young South Florida man allows himself to be called in a film that’s ultimately about taking control of one’s own identity. That’s exactly what Jenkins himself is doing by delivering a film so firmly committed to capturing the black experience, resulting in a socially conscious work of art as essential as it is insightful. A natural extension of his garrulous San Francisco-set debut, ‘Medicine for Melancholy,’ the director’s beautifully nuanced, subtext-rich second feature is no less intellectually engaged, but proves far more trusting in audiences’ ability to read between the lines.”

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David Rooney (The Hollywood Reporter): “‘Moonlight’ pulls you into its introspective protagonist’s world from the start and transfixes throughout as it observes, with uncommon poignancy and emotional perceptiveness, his roughly two-decade path to find a definitive answer to the question, ‘Who am I?’ While the fundamental nature of that central question gives this exquisite character study universality, the film also brings infinite nuance and laser-like specificity to its portrait of African-American gay male experience, which resonates powerfully in the era of Black Lives Matter.”

Sam Fragoso (The Wrap): “With the help of Tarell McCraney (who wrote the story), Jenkins reveals the heart of the film methodically. Like Chiron himself, ‘Moonlight,’ and what it’s articulating, isn’t so easily described. The film isn’t a ho-hum parable or a cautionary tale. It doesn’t bang viewers over the head with a life lesson to glean from this story. I’m not sure it even offers hope. This is not to suggest the proceedings are cynical, because they’re not. Jenkins and McCraney have artfully cobbled together something that is impressionistic and wondrous, like a compendium of half-remembered memories, tinged by sadness.”

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