To be nobody-but-yourself — in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody else — means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight. — E.E. Cummings
Moonlight, an adaption of Tarell Alvin McCraney’s play ‘In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue’, written and directed by Barry Jenkins represents a cathartic breakthrough in mainstream black cinema. The movie details the coming of age of the character initially known as ‘little’ and his search for identity. This exploration of human complexity in popular culture- often denied to black characters on screen, through such immersive cinematography makes Moonlight a deeply impactful cultural artefact.
The film unflinchingly embraces the charge of French philosopher Albert Camus towards the artist, to create dangerously as a voice of resistance and ultimately liberation of society. Moonlight stands boldly as a rejection of the suffocating social script of black masculinity, sexuality and self-expression. It ultimately contributes to the restorative process of humanity towards a people historically denied this crucial voice.
The presence of Juan, a drug dealer who honourably becomes a surrogate father for little, helping him navigate the burdens of his drug addicted mother and his sexual identity is crucial in the film. The intimacy of this relationship is evidenced by Juan teaching little how to swim. However, the harrowing fact is Juan is the same person selling crack to little’s mother. This multiplicity of character is incredibly instructive, it strikingly illustrates how one can exist simultaneously as liberator and imprisoner, a source of hope and a contributor to despair, as both wisdom and folly.
It is thrilling to witness these themes being explored through bodies that look blue in the moonlight.