Fuse is once again celebrating an extended Black History Month by highlighting a variety of rising forces who are creating Future Black History before our very eyes. Today we are honoring Barry Jenkins, whose directorial work on Moonlight reminded us about the importance of compassion.
But before the filmmaker transformed into Hollywood's impressive golden child, the Miami native established himself in the industry with 2008's independent romantic drama film Medicine for Melancholy that explores two black people grappling with their identity in a predominantly white, hipster city.
After releasing his debut film and working as a writer on HBO's The Leftovers, Jenkins was solidified as a breakout director with last October's Moonlight. He wrote and directed the movie, which was inspired by Tarell Alvin McCraney’s theater piece In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue as well as Jenkins' own experience growing up in Miami.
Aside from its massive critical acclaim (including a Golden Globe win Best Motion Picture – Drama and eight Oscar nominations this year), Moonlight is a beautifully created and heartbreakingly honest film. It showed black people—specifically boys—through a filter that many mainstream projects don't explore. Lead character Chiron is shy, a bit fearful, sheltered, loving and human in the purest form. Thanks to Jenkins, a different side of our story was told.
The filmmaker, who made history as the fourth-ever black best director Oscars nominee, said of his earnings:
"I think it shows that it’s one thing to invite an audience in, which I think we did. But once we did, we don’t try to show them things we anticipate they need to or want to see. I do think audiences, at least with this film, respect that. I give it up for the audience because they have been willing to walk a mile in Chiron’s shoes. I think they respect that I’m not trying to bring their shoes into my cinema."
Jenkins is planning to follow up Moonlight soon, as he is working on a script for a coming-of-age drama based on American boxer Claressa Shields. If he can capture our hearts as he did with Moonlight, we will be more than happy to leave our shoes behind to enjoy the future of his directorial career.