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Chalk It Up: Moonlight

This is a guest post from Zoë Saunders. Previously…

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moonlight chalk drawing illustration movie

I was lucky enough to attend a press preview screening of Moonlight in September and was absolutely blown away by this poignant and beautiful film. Each shot is carefully framed and each character fully formed. The film is adapted from a play by Tarell McCraney and retains its dramatic structure as a character study in three acts – examining the central character, Chiron, through episodes from his childhood, adolescence, and adulthood.

Chiron is a young black gay man in Miami, navigating the challenges of poverty, school bullies, and his crack-addicted mother, all while trying to come to terms with his own sexuality. The character combines autobiographical details from the lives of McCraney and director/co-writer Barry Jenkins: they both grew up poor in Miami’s Liberty Square neighborhood with HIV-positive mothers addicted to crack cocaine. The three actors cast as Chiron at different ages (Alex Hibbert, Ashton Sanders, and Trevante Rhodes) don’t look very alike, but they share a certain vulnerability in the eyes that unites them convincingly. I’ve tried to capture that in my chalk triple-portrait.

Janelle Monáe is charming in her cinematic debut here, and British actress Naomie Harris (as Chiron’s mother) acts her heart out trying to win an Oscar, but the real award contender here is Mahershala Ali. He plays Juan, a complex and compassionate drug dealer who takes young Chiron under his wing.

Moonlight is going to win something at the Oscars, just a matter of what and how many. The film has been cleaning up the smaller competitions, taking the top awards at the LA Critics Awards, NY Film Critics Circle Awards, Gotham Awards, and Chicago Film Festival, and with plenty of nominations for the Golden Globes. I should know by now that the Oscars are all a joke, but if Moonlight doesn’t win anything, then I’m quitting the award shows for good.

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