Ad­vo­cates hail Moon­light vic­tory

Top Os­car for gay-themed film ground­break­ing, groups say

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - NEWS - JO­CE­LYN NOVECK In­for­ma­tion for this ar­ti­cle was con­trib­uted by Lind­sey Bahr and David Fis­cher of The As­so­ci­ated Press.

Ad­vo­cacy groups and oth­ers were look­ing past the Os­car’s wrong-win­ner an­nounce­ment and in­stead cel­e­brat­ing the win of Moon­light as a tri­umph for gay, bi­sex­ual and trans­gen­der peo­ple.

The coming-of-age story of a gay black youth in a poor Mi­ami neigh­bor­hood was made on a mi­nus­cule bud­get for a movie — $1.5 mil­lion, di­rec­tor Barry Jenk­ins said back­stage. It had a mostly black cast and was seen as the first gay-themed movie to win best pic­ture in the 89-year his­tory of the awards show.

There’s no point in won­der­ing whether the flub that led to La La Land be­ing in­cor­rectly an­nounced as best-pic­ture win­ner would over­shadow the Moon­light win, said Sarah Kate El­lis, pres­i­dent and chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer of the Gay and Les­bian Al­liance Against Defama­tion.

“I don’t think you can over­shadow the Moon­light win,” she said in an in­ter­view, ac­knowl­edg­ing that it was “a bit up­set­ting that it went down that way.”

What won out, she said, was not only a strong mes­sage of di­ver­sity and in­clu­siv­ity but also “hope­fully the big­ger dream — that Hol­ly­wood rec­og­nizes this and con­tin­ues to pro­duce films like this, so that they are not the ex­cep­tion but the rule.”

“So often we’ve heard from Hol­ly­wood that writ­ers aren’t writ­ing about th­ese things,” El­lis said. “So hav­ing a suc­cess at this level takes that nar­ra­tive out.”

The rea­son for the film’s suc­cess, she said, was sim­ple: “It re­flects the world we live in to­day. Count­less peo­ple can re­late to it.”

Gil Robert­son, pres­i­dent of the African-Amer­i­can Film Crit­ics As­so­ci­a­tion, said he awoke Mon­day morn­ing sim­ply “float­ing” over the Moon­light win.

“It’s def­i­nitely a sign that the tide has turned” in Hol­ly­wood, Robert­son said. The most sig­nif­i­cant re­sult, he said, is what it would sig­nal to up-and-coming film­mak­ers.

“What’s cool for black film­mak­ers and film­mak­ers in gen­eral is that this lets them know that it’s pos­si­ble,” he said. “It shows them, ‘Wow, I can do this too.’ That’s prob­a­bly the big­gest thing to come out of this.”

As for the mix-up, he said, “It was a mis­take. Let’s just move on.”

That’s es­sen­tially what Jenk­ins said back­stage, min­utes af­ter ac­cept­ing the best-pic­ture tro­phy. He noted that he had wanted to thank the stu­dio, A24, for be­liev­ing in and sup­port­ing the project through­out — but didn’t have time, given the chaos on­stage.

“My whole ac­cep­tance speech was go­ing to be in thanks to them, be­cause it’s amaz­ing to be Barry Jenk­ins right now, but it was not a year and a half ago for a guy who made a movie for $13,000 [in 2008] and hadn’t made a movie in seven years at that point,” he said. “And it’s un­for­tu­nate that things hap­pened the way they did. But … we won best pic­ture.”

He added that “the folks of La La Land were so gra­cious. I can’t imag­ine be­ing in their po­si­tion and hav­ing to do that.”

Os­car tab­u­la­tors Price­wa­ter­house­Coop­ers, in their 83rd year pro­vid­ing the ser­vice to the academy, later apol­o­gized in a state­ment and said it was in­ves­ti­gat­ing why pre­sen­ters War­ren Beatty and Faye Du­n­away had been given the wrong en­ve­lope — a duplicate en­ve­lope for the best-ac­tress cat­e­gory, which was won by Emma Stone for La La Land.

Di­rec­tor Damien Chazelle’s mu­si­cal had been widely con­sid­ered a shoo-in for best pic­ture af­ter net­ting a record-ty­ing 14 nom­i­na­tions and a slew of ear­lier awards this sea­son. The film still won six Oscars, in­clud­ing best di­rec­tor for Chazelle, who at 32 be­came the youngest ever to take the prize; best score; best orig­i­nal song, for “City of Stars”; and best ac­tress, for Stone.

Moon­light tri­umphed in a year when the academy was un­der pres­sure to honor more di­verse films af­ter two con­sec­u­tive years of no black ac­tor nom­i­nees. Even be­fore Moon­light won best pic­ture, this year’s awards were much more di­verse, with sup­port­ing act­ing wins for the film’s Ma­her­shala Ali and for Vi­ola Davis in Fences.

In Lib­erty City, the Mi­ami com­mu­nity fea­tured in Moon­light, Larry An­der­son, who played the char­ac­ter of Ant­won in the film, said Jenk­ins’ suc­cess had given him hope for his own fu­ture. An­der­son, 17, is a ju­nior at Mi­ami North­west­ern Se­nior High School.

“Know­ing that he came from the same — not just Mi­ami, but Lib­erty City, same Pork n’ Beans [hous­ing project], Mi­ami North­west­ern [High School], and the same pro­grams that I’ve been part of, it tells me I can achieve me in the same way as him,” An­der­son said. “It does give me a spe­cial con­nec­tion that he walked the same halls.”

AP/JOR­DAN STRAUSS

Jeremy Kleiner (from left), Adele Ro­man­ski and Barry Jenk­ins, win­ners of the Academy Award for best pic­ture for Moon­light, pose Sun­day at the Dolby Theatre in Los An­ge­les.

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