Moonlight: 58 and @TheEdge of “The Closet” — Marvin

Having been born in 1958 as a baby boomer, the term “In The Closet” was used way later than the words we would throw around in the locker room as a high school student athlete in San Jose, California. The word we used as a derogatory remark about your masculinity was “faggot.” To say that I didn’t participate in that type of language is equivalent to saying that most students today don’t use the word nigger, it simply wouldn’t be true. The N word is used so often now in school by elementary aged students and up, and some coaches, that it might as well be in the English style guide!

And, I won’t justify my use by saying, “Well, some of my best friends are gay and they wouldn’t mind.” Or, “my best friend is white (or black).” In other words, based on my background of admitting the above, I don’t think I was super consistent in saying it, but it was said many times for many stupid reasons just to try and hurt someone or prove masculinity and toughness and my ability to be “hard” as a black man. All that said, the only thing that allows me to go see a movie like Moonlight is my upbringing that wasn’t rooted in the evangelical church. However, if I told you I was a Believer in Christ (of which I am), I would have all these questions to answer from some of my fellow Believers.

  1. How could you go see a movie “Like that” and call yourself a Christian?
  2. You know that homosexuality is a sin, right?
  3. You do know the bible says homosexuality is an abomination, right?(Specific verses used as weapons, even though you’re not supposed to)
  4. Are you some left wing bleeding heart liberal? (even though I’m an independent voter who dislikes TV news and most politicians)
  5. “Bro, I’m unfriending you from Facebook.”

However, I won’t tell you that I didn’t look around as I bought my ticket. I did! Was I concerned about the intimacy of the scenes in the movie in that dealt with homosexuality? I was! Did I feel anxiety at the start of the film? Yes!

Within minutes, I was amazed that #’s 1–5 from above dissipated into me watching a story based off black lives that I knew so well in so many ways. It was an exposé on drugs in black communities that Evangelicals should see, but probably won’t. It was a commentary on the multiple confusing levels as a black man on how to exhibit strength, love, toughness, and spirituality; and some of the reasons our communities of color are at a state of absolute terror. The fear of being “of color” in current climates exist from some of these ways.

  1. Education: Zip codes control funding for schools.
  2. Some of us (not all) don’t see enough of ourselves in common jobs in major urban areas to hope for anything but #3
  3. “Slangin’ ”, “Holding down the block”, “In The Cut”. Better known as drug dealing, distributing, building wealth off our own by doing all we think we can do to survive.
  4. Lack of Role models: Black men coming back in droves and discussing how they made it out. What interests them besides what they see everyday, which was evidence of drug deals and wealth. And how to not have to be a sports superstar to “make it.”
  5. And how #’s 1-4 permeate each major Urban City in the United States of America. And based off the criminalization of #’s 1-4, there is 1.5 million incarcerated for a lot of #3.
  6. Homosexuality within the black community has been highlighted by R. Kelly. “Keep it on the down low” was a video followed by “In The Closet.” These songs were like major anthems in the black community that had homophobic fears attached to what seemed like a narrative of heterosexual issues of fidelity, etc. But in the black community, we knew what R. Kelly was hinting at, we know who’s in our choirs, and we know what we don’t wanna discuss — at all!

In Moonlight, all of it is “out of the closet” to be exposed in the most beautiful cinematic way. Along with an amazing story of such craftsmanship and detail that it shows me evidence that my stories are viable ones as a writer, director, and producer who happens to be black. This film tackles all the tough subjects of our communities of color with the subtle nature of a drug dealer’s love, in a step-son kind of way. A mother’s inability to really love her son due to the embarrassment and mental turmoil of being on crack, working, and not being able to provide enough. But the most impressive part of this movie for me was the director’s ability to insert his own life (and that of the playwright’s life) dealing with our fears of homosexuality within our communities of color. He was masterful in his writing and direction with the actors, and visualizing what it’s really like to be Young, Gifted, Black…and gay. And, make it into a story that I took a chance on based on my upbringing.

Igrew up an only child in The San Francisco bay area. I had athletic ability that helped me obtain a track and field scholarship and more homophobic teammates. Even in track, let alone football, or basketball, you dare not let it be known if you were gay. Henceforth one of my teammates came “out of the closet” at a very late age after we were out of school. I had no idea! I can’t believe he held it for that long. I loved my teammate for so many reasons. We partied together on one of the most memorable nights in a small NY apartment with a DJ named Mercedes at the one’s and two’s. I set him up on multiple dates with women he told me he was interested in. He tutored me in all my core classes because he was an “A” student in undergrad. I visited his home and met his parents. He gave me limo vouchers while in NY because he worked for Goldman Sachs. I stayed with him while visiting a female friend in NY as she came and stayed with me at his apartment. He moved to San Francisco, The Bay Area where I’m from. My wife (at the time) and I met his new boyfriend, who was a member of my fraternity (he thought that was so funny). And he did contract AIDS and eventually passed away. Not many of my teammates supported him in his lifestyle or as a friend. So, why was I different? I don’t think I was much different, but my lack of judgment and compassion that I saw Christ instill in my mother and father definitely paved the way for me to be as slow to judge others as possible. To see the good in them: and to want to spend time with them in relationships as real friends.

I was also an artist who studied in the medium of photography with an amazing high school teacher who taught me a lot about life and art. He also took me to meet Ansel Adams (famous American photographer) at a Friends of Photography workshop. And, I won awards for my photography of photojournalism, street photography. I went to a communist party meeting in the San Francisco bay area because the girl was cute. I had no idea I was at a communist party meeting until I saw her Mao Tse-Tung’s Little Red book! I’ve traveled to two third world countries. I had many relationships with women of all nationalities, and had my heart broken due to the color of my skin and my own flawed character within my heterosexual confused world of what a man of color is supposed to do and not do. And I grew up in a household of borderline mentally ill and/or retarded young adults who either worked, went to school, because my parents mission in life was to show love and kindness to those who seemed to warrant none. Still to this day, they’re some of the smartest people I’ve ever been around, hands down! My parents insisted they were to be treated as family. And I found out I was adopted at age 34! Now I’m a screenwriter building the confidence to add some of my story into a fictional character.

To say I’ve had a different background then a white evangelical is an understatement. And, I’m glad I didn’t have that upbringing as a follower of Christ. I’m glad I live the life I’ve lived. In my understanding of Christ, which is still fresh in some ways, I believe He sat with everyone no matter their political platform or ethnicity. But Christ clearly wrestled with religious leaders about who was saved, who was clean, who wasn’t clean, who could drink at the water well, how are you saved, what one should do now if they’re saved, etc. He ate dinner at multiple houses when religious leaders and some of his own disciples thought he should not eat with them. He demanded the breaking of bread at a table. He planned his own Last Supper before He was murdered as part of his Father’s plan. He clearly and specifically wanted us to Love one another no matter what! And, He died for everyone that truly excepted Him into their heart. However, I truly believe that God has the ability (He’s God) to save anyone God wants at the metaphorical snap of His finger. Regardless if their wing is left, right, or center. That’s me, Marvin Wadl0w Jr. That’s the eyes I went into see Moonlight with. And I came out stronger for it.

Moonlight is so tender, brave, and brilliant in terms of how the story is structured. The director, Barry Jenkins, choose to use three different lead characters for the central character, Chiron. A middle schooler, a high schooler, and a young adult. I believe this film will be up for multiple Oscars. The director has said that all three actors never were in contact with each other during the filming. You never hear, or see, the full story of urban plight. You see the results, death or jail. You see the anguish of a grandmother or mom crying over another dead black boy from violence in a trade that basically exists from lack of hope and mentors. A visualization if you will of what could be for your life. Or even worse, the news tells the story of a young black man, and for the most part, always gets it wrong. Or, actually, they just don’t spend enough time to get it right. The real issue. What’s the concern from the start. Well, Moonlight covers being black and growing up in the run down urban area of Liberty City, Miami. Drug dealing, love, food, homosexuality, death, and tenderness via the simple holding of someone and feeling their touch as black man are some of the many messages in this film.

The Film portrays all the above in a similar artistic style to that of Francios Truffaut’s 400 Blows, of Woody Allen’s comedies of upper east siders (white people) in New York, with the alarming plight of a day in the life of Radio Raheem in Do The Right Thing, and with the stinging horrible true narrative of our news stories of another black boy shot over a tail light, skittle/hoodie, knocking on a door after an accident, stolen cigars out of a convenient store, holding a toy gun in a toy store, holding a toy gun at a park and given two seconds to explain it’s a toy before your gunned down. Needless to say, I loved the movie. It gave me hope that my stories that are real can be inserted into a fictional tale that looks different then his and stills says what our blackness is about! Thank you for this beautiful work of cinema. I now have at least two to watch and emulate (you and Ava Duvernay (Selma Director), it is possible. I will do this!

-Marvin, Paid In Full

Moonlight, Behind The Scenes

“I’m a straight man who has a level of compassion and empathy”

Barry Jenkins, Director of Moonlight!
London Film Festival

The little Black Boy from The Bay Area!

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