2017-06-20 16:40:48

Moonlight: A Narration on African Americans’ Dilemma

Huang Wangli


An African American film, in a true sense, is not merely starred by African American actors, but also created and shot by African Americans. The winner of the Academy Award for Best Picture in 2017, Moonlight, is such a unique film. When the director Barry Jenkins, scriptwriter Tarell Alvin McCraney, and the cast, all African American, stepped on the stage and held the Oscar Statuette, they were presenting a true African American world to us.

Moonlight is a special African-American film, for it truly reflects on the current overall living status of the African American group in the underclass, and reveals their fates and alternatives for life they can barely escape from. The film is connected by three stories of the main character Chiron during his growing-up. Each chapter is titled by the nicknames Chiron has in the three corresponding life periods: Little, Chiron and Black, which also discloses to the audience that Chiron’s life is shaped by the external environment. Indeed, the movie has gradually staged the issues surrounding Chiron’s living space: drug taking, drug dealing, school violence, single parent family, homosexuality… in front of the audience. The director adopted documentary techniques as much as possible, and recounted the growth path of the boy step by step. However, the hero doesn’t escape from the destiny in the end, just like others.

In terms of lighting, the film uses natural outdoor light mostly, which is close to the effect of original living environment, and avoids dramatic luminous effects. To be consistent with the plain lighting approach, the film also rejects theatrical scenes and emotional expressions. For example, about the death of Juan, the drug dealer and Chiron’s life advisor, the director delivered the information through other character’s lines, rather than directly presenting the dramatic scene, thus moderating the overall dramatic conflicts and performance in the film. But after watching the entire work, the audience can still feel the inner conflicts of the characters and their emotional connections genuinely and profoundly.

Thanks to the effective control of documentary style, the film expresses emotions in a restrained way and in a slow pace. The smooth and steady tempo of the film, and the clear and distinct thread of the story, have managed to unveil the shocking and astounding living conditions of the African-American underclass at present.

Guiding Unit:State Film Administration      Host Units:China Media Group Shanghai Municipal People's Government

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