TIFF 2016: Moonlight is On its Way to A Best Picture Oscar Nomination 

click to enlarge Moonlight will open in North American theaters in late October. - A24
  • A24
  • Moonlight will open in North American theaters in late October.
I will not forget Moonlight anytime soon. It has been a full 48 hours since I've watched its premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival and I can't shake it. It's bound to be one of the most talked-about films of 2016 and, surely, the most award-worthy independent film of the year. 

Moonlight doesn't pretend to be a definitive film about the black experience, yet this film is destined to be deconstructed by African American cultural historians for years to come. And why not? The film is, quite simply, a landmark. By telling a singular story of a young African American man, it opens up dialogue and debates that are long overdue: about racial identity, sexual identity and America's failed war on poverty.

The film is an extraordinary character study yet atmosphere plays the lead role. Filmed in Miami, the heat, the ocean and neon-bathed streets come together to frame a story that feels instantly familiar. Maybe that's why it hurts so bad (and sometimes hurts so good) to watch. Director Barry Jenkins' elaborate use of close-ups and his penchant to linger a little longer in each scene creates a softer, nearly sensual feel throughout the film.

Moonlight tells the tale of Chiron (pronounced shy-Ron), a bullied child who is protected by a man who discovers the boy hiding from bullies in a run-down drug den. The man takes Chiron under his wing and treats him with deep respect. The extreme irony is that the same man is also the neighborhood's drug supplier, something Chiron's single mother knows all too well due to her own crack addiction. While Chiron becomes a teenager, he doesn't grow into his body as much as he grows into his continued fear of being bullied. The final third of the film shows us Chiron as a grown man, revealing some of the stark choices he has made.

Ultimately, Moonlight is a requiem of sadness, but don't let that steer you away from this must-see film. It's immersive cinema at its finest.

The film will open in North American theaters in late October. By then, it should well be on its way to many honors, including certain recognition from the Motion Picture Academy. It's a lock for a Best Picture nomination.

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