‘In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue’ – Black Male Intimacy in Moonlight

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By Izzy Aghahowa and Khadisha Massey

Screenshot from Moonlight directed by Barry Jenkins, Altitude Film Entertainment, 2016.

Barry Jenkins’ 2016 masterpiece Moonlight is a coming-of-age drama set in the ghetto of Miami. It is based on Tarell Alvin McCraney’s play, In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue. Moonlight follows the life of protagonist Chiron at three different stages. It brilliantly showcases life as a young black man in America struggling with sexuality, masculinity and living in poverty. It is both heart-breaking and uplifting as we watch Chiron grow and develop into a young man, in many ways mirroring Juan, his protector as a child but also a drug dealer.

Jenkins expresses the importance of the black experience through Juan teaching Chiron that black people are everywhere and were on the earth first. Juan discusses when he was a child and a stranger told him in moonlight black boys look blue, which the audience then gets to visualize with shots of Chiron in the moonlight. The moonlight shot reflects Chiron being vulnerable and his true self, which the audience only gets to see when he’s with Juan or his friend Kevin.

The film also explores how black men struggle not only with vulnerability but also intimacy, their friendships as well as their relationships – often keeping other black men, especially, at a distance so as not to show weakness. The film is set in beautiful hues of blue, purple and sometimes green, often contrasted against the warmth and darkness of black skin, highlighting its beauty. Jenkins masters quiet, soulful and heart-breaking affection in this film, a thing rarely seen on screen between black men. For it to be done in such a touching and honest way is truly one of a kind. Black men deserve a variety of representation as so often they get put in a box, not being able to show the many sides of their existence. The film takes on hard-hitting subject matter with grace and beauty and puts its heart on its sleeve for all to see and witness and it does so impeccably. There is a reason why this film is still looked upon with such admiration: its representation of black men will have a place in history forever.

Further Viewing

Girlhood (2014) Dir. Celine Sciamma, available on Box of Broadcasts

If Beale Street Could Talk (2018) Dir. Barry Jenkins, available on Box Of Broadcasts

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