Moonlight, Love & BBall, & Why I Love Mr. Ali

On Wednesday I decided to go to one of the many “Talk Back Conversations” my school holds with inspirational speakers. The conversation / interview I decided to attend was with Mahershala Ali, a two time academy award winning actor known for his work in Moonlight and Greenbook. Mahershala is one of my favorite actors for numerous reasons. His decision to study acting at the University level in his 20’s inspires me, the variety of stories he can tell and characters he can portray, and the insightful and moving messages he strives to tell not only through his acting but as an inspirational figure to the artistic world of society. One of the first questions Mr. Ali was asked was why he chose to work on a small indie feature that was the movie Moonlight, and why he believes it was such a success and a historic highlight of success in film. Mahershala smiled and engaged into the conversation stating how he feels Moonlight was a success because it portrays people on the big screen that really are never represented or talked about. Moonlight, directed by FSU’s very own Barry Jenkins, tells the chronicle of the transition from childhood to adulthood of a young African American gay man in a rough neighborhood of Miami.

I mean, when you think about it, yeah? He’s right. When is the last time you saw any form of promoted media, weather through a television show or a film, where the leading man is growing up in the tough, neglected, harsh reality of the ghettos of Miami, fighting the influence of drug culture and an abusive household, and is also trying to find himself in his sexuality and identity as a young black homosexual man. Mahershala Ali continued his conversation on the topic of how his goal as an artist is to tell the stories that need to be told. Moonlight struck me to a core when I first saw it, because I had never seen a piece of art that spoke on the topic of identity within race, sexuality, and just the humanistic universal question of “who am I?”, in such a vulnerable way. I am proud of this film and the success it got. It completely highlights the argument that, yes, people do want to see themselves on the screen, and a vulnerable, breathtakingly beautiful story such as Moonlight expresses relatability within the topic of indeitity not only for the black community but the LGBTQ+ community as well.

The discussion of representation on screen with Mahershala led me to think about the representation of the good ol’ girl-boss. And by this, I mean the never talked about… “female director”. Yes, I said it!!! A FEMALE director. Are we seeing progression for representation of women behind the camera? Well, to relate this argument to identity of race and sexuality, and to find comparison within the film Moonlight, let’s talk about Love & Basketball.

An example of the progression of film through the story of Love & Basketball is the fact the director of this film is a woman. The success of Prince-Bythewood’s feature will only lead to influence greatness for female African American artists. The film also supports women in general as our leading woman, Monica, is a great example for the success of female athletes. Kyla Pratt’s success in the film as an African American actress in the early 2000’s is a prime example of progression beginning to take place for females of color in the world of film.

The success of Moonlight spreads across on many levels of sensitive subjects of life that are in need of exposure when it comes to pop culture. Barry Jenkins’ success of wining the Oscar for Best Picture is well deserved. Moonlight’s progressive exposure is regarded mainly through the factors of LGBTQ influence as well as African American culture, specifically in Miami. The ties between the world of a man struggling with his sexuality as well as his home life and solitude in his home of the ghettos of Miami are brought to life through the chronicle of Chiron.

Thank you Mahershala Ali, for getting the wheels turning in my head on the discussions that need to be had when it comes to representing all individuals in the world of Hollywood.

Moonlight and Love and Basketball are both pieces of film that show immense transition of progress for African American directors, actors, and influential stories. The power of these films will only lead to greatness of influence for the continuation of success for African American culture towards film making and art in general. These films showcase that we as a society need to promote equal representation through the content that is produced as entertainment. Through the major success of these two films, which both relate to so MANY topics (identity, race, gender, sexuality, community, etc., etc.) is something to admire and for the future film makers and artistic creators to respect when leading into a progressive future of representation on film.