Dear Barry Jenkins,
Thank you. And I say that thank you loud enough so that Tarell, James, Trevante, Mahershala, Andre, Naomie, Adele, Jeremy, Dede, and the honest folks at A24 can hear it, but first and foremost, thank you. As a young filmmaker, I've tried to make movies that were personal to me and were an exploration of who I was and what I knew and understood, and sometimes those results have fallen (expectedly) on deaf ears. And I get that. I'm young, I'm learning, and that's the way it goes. But in today's climate of film, it's hard, man. And I would be willing to bet you know that better than anybody. It was a long road to "Moonlight" and I'm certain it wasn't always red carpets, Q/A's and award shows. I bet there were dark nights. There had to be. Because you wonder--and not always--but you do wonder: Do people actually give a shit? Do people want to hear what I have to say? Am I shouting into the void? It's no surprise those big budget, bang-up movies have an audience, and that's fine, but is there a place for personal film in America?
And "Moonlight" answered that question for me. And Lord knows, it couldn't have came at a better time. I watched it as two different people, and it moved me in two different ways: as an audience member, but also as a filmmaker. You pointed your lens at this little corner of an overlooked humanity, and you made us pay attention. And I remember standing in the parking lot on a chilly night after seeing this film with my filmmaker friend, and we were just buzzing. We kept saying to each other, "Man, fuck, this is the kind of movie I want to make one day." And that's a very rare phenomenon nowadays. In a world where cinema seems to be in two completely separate and exclusive camps of large-scale franchises and tiny, slice-of-life indie films, your film hit the target for me. It sat at that glorious intersection of being impressionistic and cinematic and yet personal and intimate. You showed us how cripplingly high stakes inner conflict can be. I think of "Taxi Driver", I think of "A Woman Under the Influence".
And I think for the first time in a real way, I have hope about the future of American film. I'm optimistic. Because look at the love "Moonlight" is getting. How can you not be hopeful? People are responding. They're awakening. They're remembering that sometimes you go to the cinemas to feel, to examine. Not just to escape. Not just to remove yourself from your emotional sensitivities, but rather to embrace them.
So that's why thank you. Because now I know that even though the road is long and hard and takes decades of dedication and persistence, at least I know there's a chance. There needs to remain a place for personal films in America. I'm not talking about toppling the system and staging some revolution where no one can watch a blockbuster again, I'm just saying give us that place. Give us that one screen out of the fourteen at the theaters. It can even be the small one on the end. I don't want to be relegated to watching a film like "Moonlight" on my laptop or my TV. I couldn't have experienced that collective silence and oneness with the strangers around me as the credits rolled in "Moonlight" from my couch. We deserve that place.
And that's where I'm going to be. In that place. For now watching films like yours or "The Witch" or "Whiplash" or all the rest of the outstanding films A24 is putting out. And then hopefully with luck and time and dedication, one day making something of my own for that screen.
Thank you Barry,