A Made-in-Miami Masterwork: “Moonlight”
By Skip Sheffield
“Moonlight” made me feel melancholy, but not for the usual reasons of story or presentation.
“Moonlight” was shot entirely in Miami, in the blighted Liberty City neighborhood. Because of our short-sighted Florida legislators, the tax incentives that helped Florida reach number three in film and television production in the nation were eliminated last June. There was an immediate mass exodus of film and TV production people. Most went to Georgia, which has some of the most industry-friendly incentives in the country.
“Moonlight” is a small, intimate film, shot on a shoestring budget. Furthermore it has a subject matter that is not mass audience-friendly.
It is about a black boy called “Little” (Ashton Sanders). Little, whose given name is Chiron, is bullied and tormented by his classmates. At his young age he is branded a “faggot.”
Chiron grows into a teenager played by Alex Hibbert. Finally he grows into a young man played by Trevante Rhodes. Similarly Chiron’s best friend Kevin is played by three different actors in various stages of life.
It is bad enough Chiron is poor, black and gay. To compound matters his mother Paula (Naomie Harris) is a crackhead with an abusive boyfriend (Mahershala Ali).
“Moonlight” is no romp about sun and fun in Miami. It shines a light on people we don’t see or choose not to see. As such this movie is a compassionate glimpse on those on the margins of society, so close but so far away from the wealth and privilege of South Florida.