Announced by the streaming service on Twitter, when initially released in October 2016, Moonlight saw staggering box office success. The feature, which is a screenplay adapted from Tarell Alvin McCraney’s In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue, stars Mahershala Ali, Naomie Harris, Janelle Monae, Trevante Rhodes, Ashton Sanders, and Alex Hibbert. The latter three play various stages of Chiron, the feature’s lead. Though critically acclaimed, the lapse from release to Netflix streaming is likely largely due to the fact that the movie’s distributor A24 had a multi-year deal with Amazon. The work had been previously streaming there.
As a coming-of-age tale, Moonlight complexly deals with ideas of Blackness, masculinity, and sexuality. Chiron is the son of a drug-addled and sometimes abusive mother, played by Harris, who finds solace in Juan and his girlfriend Teresa, played by Ali and Monae, respectively. The film features an almost exclusively Black cast.
The protagonist of Barry Jenkins's Moonlight - played at various points of his life by Alex Hibbert, Ashton Sanders, and Trevante Rhodes - is called many names. When he's a child, he's “Little”; when he's with his first love, he's “Black”; too often, he's “faggot.” Picture supplied.
Since, the entire cast has pressed on, seemingly destined for greatness. In the red carpet roll-out Rhodes, Sanders, and Hibbert fronted a series of Calvin Klein campaigns. Ali went on to star in the Oscar-winning Green Book, Jenkins later directed If Beale Street Could Talk which got Regina King her Oscar this year, and Janelle Monae is … well Janelle Monae. Though she was well on her way there sans Moonlight. And McCraney? With projects with OWN, Netflix, and a forthcoming stage play bowing next month about the first black drag queen to run for president, Joan Jett Blakk, what is he not doing at this point?
Still, the film seemed to exemplify overlapping conversations about Black masculinity, toxic masculinity, and representation in its debut, and despite a slight hiccup at the Oscars presenting, will undoubtedly hold a space as a part of the queer film canon.
WATCH: The official trailer for Moonlight, directed by Barry Jenkins