Film · POC Filmmakers · Queer Filmmakers · Review

Moonlight: Watch with Empathy

I mean, I’m really not interested in any take on Moonlight that isn’t coming from a queer black person. It’s a beautiful evocation of a life that comes so far from mine that I feel fully inequipped to deal. Queerness comes pretty easy of my tongue, but that small-town, middle-class, white-British queerness. How can it be comparable?

So often is it said that the human experience is a universal one. It’s a nice thought. That if only we could consider it we’d discover that the liquid in everyone’s eyes sees light in all the same ways. So strange how it’s always it’s the privileged who always come out and say that. Those so blinded by their own stifling milquetoast lack of any identity, that it impossible that there be any sort of otherness that they could not comprehend.

These are the people who that integration is paramount. That of course everything can be good and right, if those gay stopped talking about being gay so much and black people put a stop to that cultural identity and if only immigrants could stop being so foreign there’d be no trouble whatsoever. Because it’s impossible for them to see the difference between understanding and empathy, because their version of acceptance only works if we all the same.

Moonlight is not the same. It makes no bones about what it is. It is outsider, deliberately defying those who wish for an explanation. It cares not if the audience don’t understand its world or characters, the people who made it clearly do. We all tired of those out there who demand explanation. ‘Why was what I said racist?’ ‘Was that sexist?’ ‘If you could just let me know why what I said offended you…’ Fuck ’em. People whose morality is so caught up in their overwhelming desire for similarity that they need us to make ourselves into them, rather than considering what it means to be us.

I guess there’s a lot of talk out there about Moonlight being a film that defies easy categorization, that defies definition. Nah, that’s just the talk of people so mired in the depths of their own inability to comprehend that they don’t even hear the film shouting at them. It’s something special, pure and passionate and alive but, because it is alien, must it be indescribable?

It isn’t, it’s just that the writing world is too white and too straight (and in many other cases, though not this one, too male) to properly see the shape of what sits in front of them. And that kills criticism. I’m trying to learn, trying to educate myself, trying to be the most responsible opinion-holder that I can be. I just ain’t there yet.

So when I sit down to write my mind fills with the clichés. I write about the cast’s performances and Barry Jenkins & Tarell Alvin McCraney’s script and James Laxton’s cinematography and Nat Sanders & Joi McMillon’s editing and in considering the separate parts completely avoid talking about the film. Because I don’t have anything to say about the film, it’s still too distant for me to speak with insight.

It needs seeing. It’s the best flick up for the Best Picture Oscar. It’s probably the best flick of all last year. Just, if you’re a watcher in my position, leave your attempts at understanding at the door, best watch with empathy instead.
If anyone knows any writing on the film by black queer authors please send it my way.

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