Moonlight is being hailed as one of the best movies of 2016, and an instant LGBT film classic. Naturally, most audiences would assume that the director of Moonlight, Barry Jenkins is gay, but he’s actually straight. It was with the help of a gay playwright he felt that he could do this story justice even if he wasn’t gay himself.
“I had some trepidation about it at the beginning, only because I think there are some stories that can only be told from a first-person perspective,” he told Vulture in a new interview.
“I hadn’t lived this aspect of the character’s identity, but at the same time, I had so many other things in common with Chiron that I thought, If there’s ever going to be a space where I can truly empathize with a character who has a core aspect of his identity that I don’t share, it’s going to be this case.”
It was with the help of out playwright Tarell Alvin McCraney, who wrote the play In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue—in which the film is based on—that Jenkins realized he could still tell this story even if he wasn’t gay like the main character, Chiron.
“Also, too, talking to Tarell through the writing process, I realized how aligned we were. I realized through that process that I could preserve Tarell’s voice and meld it with my passion as an empathetic ally for LGBTQ stories. The combination of those two things could give me the room and breadth to actually be able to take authorship of this thing.
What I say is that Moonlight could not have originated with me. It had to originate with Tarell. I think because it did, I felt very comfortable taking on the issues. I mean, the movie’s very intersectional. There’s so much going on with Chiron, and that’s only one part of his identity. But I did feel because it’s a core aspect of the material and a core aspect of all of Tarell’s work that I could do it.”
So do most people who see the movie assume that he’s gay? “They do! All the time.” replied Jenkins.
Moonlight is now playing in select theaters and opens nationwide November 4.