The Best Picture goof-up at the 89th Academy Awards has become one of the most bizarre and shocking moments in Oscar history. But there was a big silver lining - Barry Jenkins' Moonlight won the coveted golden mini-man.
At a time when division, discrimination, whether based on race, gender or faith has been rocking not just America, but the whole world at large, the Oscars took a solid step in the right direction for inclusivity in the entertainment industry by awarding 'Moonlight' as the Best Picture.
'Moonlight' is based on Academy Award winning American playwright Tarell Alvin McCraney's play 'In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue.' McCraney also wrote the story for the movie version. It traces in three parts, the story of a man called Chiron in three different key stages in his life; as a child, as a teenager and as an adult man.
In the first part, we see his life as a young Miami kid and the hardships he faces from his neighbourhood, and from his mother. He is helped by a local drug dealer Jean, played by Mahershala Ali, who won the Best Supporting Actor Oscar for the feature. Jean offers him a healthy distraction by teaching him swimming while also sharing with him the wisdoms of life; that one must make their own paths. Jean's girlfriend becomes a substitute mother, caring for him and even offering him money; letting him stay when he needs a safe refuge.
As a teenager we see how he is bullied by his peers, and develops a bond with Kevin leading to a brief sexual encounter between the two while Chiron's mother, played by Naomie Harris, becomes a prostitute to be able to buy crack, which she becomes addicted to. In the final part, we see Chiron has become a drug dealer like Juan, who became a kind of foster-father figure to him. We see him forgive his mother and reconcile with his friend and lover Kevin.
'Moonlight' was the perfect winner with its message of inclusivity, hope and love at the face of mounting odds. The feature celebrates life above everything and the strength needed by an individual to keep fighting to preserve one's true self. However, Barry Jenkins also shows that the fight is much harder in real life and often leads to suppression of the inner self for survival. In this case, it is Chiron's sexual identity as a homosexual which makes him a social outcast and he is told that it is a disease and a weakness through bullying and physical assaults.
The story explores and exposes how the discriminatory rules of a society, written or oral, can damage an innocent person to the point that they either grow up in denial about their true selves or hide under the garb of normalcy. What 'Moonlight' ultimately does is that it shows how most of our dear lives are spend pretending and trying to blend in; how far we go to suppress ourselves rather than love who we are and how our society damages us.
In this context perhaps, the goof-up between 'La La Land' and 'Moonlight' becomes more significant. One is an ode to a glorious bygone Hollywood Technicolor ear, where things appear for the most part rosy but has thorns underneath. The other is about what we have been facing; the threshold we have arrived at as a society and the progressive path that an individual needs to take with compassion and empathy from the society.
Watch a trailer for 'Moonlight' below.