Barry Jenkins Had One Reservation About Making Moonlight

After his feature directorial debut “Medicine for Melancholy” in 2008, it took eight years for Barry Jenkins to get his sophomore film off the ground. During that period, he came across the work of playwright Tarell Alvin McCraney, whose shelved play “In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue” — written a decade prior to the film’s making — was passed to him by a Miami non-profit (via Fader). Jenkins was eager to bring McCraney’s semi-autobiographical story to the screen, but the fact that he isn’t gay made him contemplate whether he was fit to tell it (via The Guardian):

“Can I, as a straight man, really tell this story fully –- in the way it needs to be told? But I approached this as an ally. Tarell is very openly gay and I felt like if I preserved his voice, it would at least pass the smell test. I saw myself in Chiron in every way –- except for that one aspect of his identity. If I turned my back on him for that, it would be cowardly. I couldn’t have lived with myself if I’d done that. So I felt I had to become a better man, a more secure man, to make this film.”

I think it speaks to Jenkins’ character that he recognizes the reflective position he’s put himself in. Whether they’re behind the camera or embodying the character themselves, straight talent telling queer stories has always been a risk. It’s important to tell queer stories from a queer perspective, but in the case of “Moonlight,” I was surprised by how intimately he handled the material.

The film brilliantly captures the poetic euphoria of finding the people who get you, while you’re still trying to figure out what that means. Although Jenkins isn’t queer, there was one important thing that gave him an in regarding Chiron’s upbringing.

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