Director Barry Jenkins had an acceptance speech prepared in case his film won the big prize, but he wasn’t able to deliver it at the awards show. Its contents remained a mystery... until Sunday. Jenkins read it out loud at a South by Southwest event and reminded attendees why his film set a new standard for humanizing queer voices of color.
“Tarell [Alvin McCraney, whose play formed the basis for the film] and I are Chiron. We are that boy,” Jenkins said in the speech, which Deadline reprinted in full. “And when you watch ‘Moonlight,’ you don’t assume a boy who grew up how and where we did would grow up and make a piece of art that wins an Academy Award — certainly don’t think he would grow up to win Best Picture.”
“I’ve said that a lot and what I’ve had to admit is that I placed those limitations on myself,” he added. “I denied myself that dream — not you, not anyone else — me. And so, to anyone watching this who sees themselves in us, let this be a symbol, a reflection that leads you to love yourself. Because doing so may be the difference between dreaming at all and somehow, through the Academy’s grace, realizing dreams you never allowed yourself to have.”
It was a shining, if overdue, moment for Jenkins, who has said he had a hard time celebrating the success of “Moonlight,” given the way his film’s win played out at the Oscars ceremony.
“It’s bittersweet because when that switch happened, I didn’t enjoy it,” he told The Hollywood Reporter in February. “And it made 2017 a very long year.”
Fortunately, the gaffe hasn’t slowed Jenkins’ career. He is set to release a big-screen adaptation of James Baldwin’s novel If Beale Street Could Talk later this year, and he’s currently working with Amazon to develop a series about the Underground Railroad.