‘Moonlight’ is a win for South Florida

(WSVN) - “Moonlight,” which won Best Picture – Drama at the Golden Globes this past Sunday, is not only a cinematic triumph in its own right, but a big win for South Florida, as two Miami natives played key roles in making the film.

Writer and director Barry Jenkins, a Miami native, wrote the screenplay for “Moonlight” based on an unpublished story titled “In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue” by Tarrell Alvin McCraney.

McCraney, another Miami native, is a graduate of New World School of the Arts High School and The Theatre School at DePaul University. In May of 2007, he graduated with a MFA from Yale School of Drama’s play writing program where he received the Cole Porter Playwriting Award upon graduation. He is currently a resident playwright at New Dramatists, a member of Teo Castellanos/D-Projects in Miami and a professor at the University of Miami.

According to Fader, McCraney even grew up a few blocks away from Jenkins in Liberty City.

But the film’s ties to South Florida grow even deeper.

Photo: Manohla Dargis on Twitter ‏@ManohlaDargis
Photo Courtesy: A24

After scouting for locations in Miami, Jenkins made an effort to film “Moonlight” in places where he had previously lived. Therefore, he chose Liberty Square, a housing project located within Liberty City, as one of the primary locations to shoot.

Jenkins attended Miami Northwestern Senior High School where he was recognized and well-liked by his mentors.

“I just knew greatness was coming, but I didn’t know in what form,” said Jenkins’ former track and field coach, Calvin Jackson.

Jenkins’ health teacher also saw something in him. “He’s something that we can be proud of,” Carmen Jackson said.

McCraney was even revered by his professors at New World. They said they saw his leadership potential and versatile acting and writing talents in the ’90s, when he was a student at the school.

When it came to casting the movie, the duo returned to South Florida. Two young men from Norland Middle School star in the film.

“I was able to get the lines out correctly; he was like going over them with me,” said Kamal Ani-Bello.

Larry Anderson was even apprehensive with some of his lines. “When he told me the line, I said, ‘Um, Barry, I’m gonna have to call my mom and see if it’s OK to say these words on the big screen.'”

Since the film’s premiere at the Telluride Film Festival, in the fall of 2016, the film has received unanimous praise from critics, with buzz spurring the film to be an early Oscar contender.

Photo courtesy: Moonlight/Facebook
Photo courtesy: Moonlight/Facebook

In 2016, the film was nominated for six Golden Globe awards, including Best Director, Best Screenplay and Best Original Score. On Sunday night, the film won for Best Motion Picture – Drama.

“Tarrell, you could see was one of those people you could see were very special,” said James Randolph, associate professor New World of the Arts.

Producer Adele Romanski, who graduated from the film school at Florida State University in 2004, took the stage with Jenkins to accept the award. “Thank you to … the man without whom none of us would be standing here,” she said. “I’m so privileged to call you my friend and my collaborator and my partner in crime.”

She added to her acceptance speech, “Everybody on Twitter and Instagram, to everybody back home in Miami and in New Orleans.”

Jenkins thanked his mother, as well as his colleagues and friends in Miami. “Mom, you gave me my life, and I hope being on this stage right now is being a fulfillment of the life that you gave me,” Jenkins said in his acceptance speech. “Everybody back home in Miami, in New Orleans, if you have seen this film, if you have told a friend, all I ever say is please, tell a friend, tell a friend, tell a friend.”

McCraney will be at his Alma mater, New World School of the Arts, in Downtown Miami this Saturday where he will read his award-winning work and meet with alumni. For more information and to purchase tickets, click here.

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