Instead of the “big game,” I watched MOONLIGHT

While the rest of the USA watched football on Sunday, a small group arranged by my pastor went to the small one-screen Ken Cinema for a screening of Golden Globe winner and Oscar-nominated film Moonlight. The movie’s promoters are encouraging screenings and discussions within faith communities. I went in with literally no expectations. I hadn’t even watched the trailer, but I knew the movie had people talking.

Moonlight Movie Posters

Usually the use of “coming-of-age” in a movie synopsis means it will be a heartwarming and cute film. This particular coming-of-age story was heartbreaking aside from a glimmer of hope at the end. This was a hard movie to watch, although the music and cinematography were amazingly gorgeous and full of symbolism.

The story challenges your assumptions from the very start. Characters who are supposed to be “bad” are “good” and vice-versa. More accurately, the characters are all humans with good and bad parts to them, on a life journey like you and me. Over the course of three acts, the story tackled race, poverty, and sexuality in authentic, tender ways. One of the most interesting things in this film was that I was constantly being surprised in happy and sad moments. With that said, I can’t get too deep into synopsis or discussion because if you see it, I want you to feel the same surprises as I did.

After the showing, a group of about 8 of us went out to eat and discuss the film. I really appreciated the chance to decompress and debrief, and share perspectives. When going to a movie, we always bring our own experiences to the table. I frequently bounce from narrative to narrative when watching Netflix, reading a book, or writing, so setting aside intentional time for group discussion is quickly becoming something I get a lot out of.

Last fall I was fortunate enough to attend a book signing as part of the launch for Literally Unbelieveable: Stories from an East Oakland Classroom. The book, totally true, details the author’s 8 years teaching in the worst neighborhood in Oakland. As I watched Moonlight, especially during the first act of Chiron’s childhood, I kept thinking that these situations are real stories for students in our country. The power of one influential adult can change the trajectory for a kid’s life if given the chance, and teachers try to make that difference every day. Then again, there are powers at play in this world beyond our control and things don’t always work out. Teachers and administrators have really hard jobs and deserve as much support as we can give them. I highly, highly recommend buying this book, reading it, and then gifting it to educators in your life.

Have you seen Moonlight yet? Which Oscar-nominated movies (if any) have you made it to this year?