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When “Moonlight” — which IndieWire just crowned as the best film of this decade — went from breakout festival success to cultural phenomenon in 2016, Barry Jenkins catapulted to major filmmaker and when one of the most revered black storytellers to emerge this century. That rapid ascension made up for a lot of lost time: Anyone who caught Jenkins’ insightful 2008 debut “Medicine for Melancholy,” an absorbing two-hander about gentrification and the modern African American experience, saw the potential for a singular new voice in current cinema. It took nearly 10 years for Jenkins’ followup to come together, but “Moonlight” became the ultimate catalyst for broader discussions about representations of the black experience in popular culture.
But the conversation wasn’t relegated to that sphere alone. Jenkins’ adaptation of playwright Tarell Alvin McCarney’s “In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue” taps into the solitary experiences of Chiron, as he struggles with his sexuality and troubled family dynamics across key moments in his life, but the movie transformed that journey into a poetic experience with universal resonance. Unusual for a $4 million drama of any sort, “Moonlight” grossed more than $65 million worldwide, and won the Best Picture Oscar in a shocking last-minute turn of events that entered pop culture itself. Yet even the abrupt live broadcast moment when it turned out that “Moonlight” had beaten “La La Land” after the latter movie was handed the trophy spoke to the unexpected jolt that Jenkins’ movie sent throughout the film industry. Nobody saw it coming, not even Jenkins himself.
Years - Experience - Time - Adaptation - James
Three years later, he’s still sorting through the experience. In the time since then, his adaptation of James Baldwin’s “If Beale Street Could Talk” was another critical and commercial success that landed Jenkins another Oscar nomination. He’s currently wrapping pre-production on his long-awaited Amazon series adaptation of...
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