Moonlight, Barry Jenkins, Naomia Harris, Mahershala Ali, Janelle Monae, Alex Hibbert, Ashton Sanders, Trevante Rhodes, African American Films, Black Films, KOLUMN Magazine, KOLUMN

Moonlight Director Barry Jenkins on What Scared Him Most About Making Such a Personal Film – Slate In advance of the Oscars this Sunday, where Moonlight is up for eight awards including Best Picture, we're reprinting this conversation from October 2016 between the film's writer-director Barry Jenkins and Slate's Aisha Harris.


Barry Jenkins’ Moonlight tells the story of Chiron, a young boy growing up in a poor, predominantly black neighborhood in Miami. Bullied at school and neglected by his mother, Paula (Naomie Harris), at home, his only stable source of emotional support arrives in the form of a kindly local drug dealer named Juan (Mahershala Ali) and his girlfriend, Teresa (Janelle Monáe). The film unravels through three different periods in Chiron’s life (as a tween, teenager, and some years later as a young adult) and via three different actors (Alex Hibbert, Ashton Sanders, and Trevante Rhodes) as Chiron struggles with his identity within a hypermasculine environment, and the heavy emotional consequences of living under such circumstances.

Moonlight, Barry Jenkins, Naomia Harris, Mahershala Ali, Janelle Monae, Alex Hibbert, Ashton Sanders, Trevante Rhodes, African American Films, Black Films, KOLUMN Magazine, KOLUMN

Moonlight, Barry Jenkins, Naomia Harris, Mahershala Ali, Janelle Monae, Alex Hibbert, Ashton Sanders, Trevante Rhodes, African American Films, Black Films, KOLUMN Magazine, KOLUMN

Moonlight, Barry Jenkins, Naomia Harris, Mahershala Ali, Janelle Monae, Alex Hibbert, Ashton Sanders, Trevante Rhodes, African American Films, Black Films, KOLUMN Magazine, KOLUMN

Moonlight, Barry Jenkins, Naomia Harris, Mahershala Ali, Janelle Monae, Alex Hibbert, Ashton Sanders, Trevante Rhodes, African American Films, Black Films, KOLUMN Magazine, KOLUMN

Moonlight, Barry Jenkins, Naomia Harris, Mahershala Ali, Janelle Monae, Alex Hibbert, Ashton Sanders, Trevante Rhodes, African American Films, Black Films, KOLUMN Magazine, KOLUMN

Moonlight, Barry Jenkins, Naomia Harris, Mahershala Ali, Janelle Monae, Alex Hibbert, Ashton Sanders, Trevante Rhodes, African American Films, Black Films, KOLUMN Magazine, KOLUMN

Moonlight, Barry Jenkins, Naomia Harris, Mahershala Ali, Janelle Monae, Alex Hibbert, Ashton Sanders, Trevante Rhodes, African American Films, Black Films, KOLUMN Magazine, KOLUMN



Barry Jenkins (born November 19, 1979) is an American filmmaker based in Los Angeles, known for his films Medicine for Melancholy (2008) and Moonlight (2016). Moonlight received dozens of accolades, including the Golden Globe Award for Best Picture – Drama. The film also received eight Oscar nominations at the 89th Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Director and Best Adapted Screenplay for Jenkins.

Jenkins was born in 1979 in Liberty City, Miami, and has three older siblings. His father died when he was 12, and had earlier separated from his mother, believing that Jenkins was not his biological son. During his childhood, Jenkins was raised by another woman in an overcrowded apartment. He attended Miami Northwestern Senior High School, where he played on the school football team. Jenkins later studied film at Florida State University in Tallahassee.

Jenkins’s breakout film was Medicine for Melancholy, a low-budget independent feature released in 2008, starring Wyatt Cenac and Tracey Heggins. The film was well received by critics.

After the success of his previous film, Jenkins wrote an epic for Focus Features about “Stevie Wonder and time travel” and an adaptation to the James Baldwin novel If Beale Street Could Talk, both of which never entered production. He later worked as a carpenter and co-founded an advertising company called Strike Anywhere. In 2011, he wrote and directed Remigration, a sci-fi short film about gentrification. Jenkins became a writer for HBO’s The Leftovers, about which he commented, “I didn’t get to do much.”

Jenkins directed and wrote the drama Moonlight, his first feature film in eight years. The film was shot in Miami and premiered at the Telluride Film Festival in 2016 to vast critical acclaim and awards “buzz.” A. O. Scott of The New York Times wrote: “Moonlight dwells on the dignity, beauty and terrible vulnerability of black bodies, on the existential and physical matter of black lives.” Variety wrote: “Barry Jenkins’ vital portrait of a South Florida youth revisits the character at three stages in his life, offering rich insights into the contemporary African-American experience.”[9] David Sims of The Atlantic wrote: “Like all great films, Moonlight is both specific and sweeping. It’s a story about identity—an intelligent, challenging work…”

The film has since won dozens of accolades, including the Golden Globe Award for Best Picture – Drama. The film also received eight Oscar nominations at the 89th Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Director and Best Adapted Screenplay for Jenkins.

His upcoming projects include a series based on Colson Whitehead’s novel The Underground Railroad and a screenplay based on the life of Claressa Shields. (Wikipedia).