I didn’t get to see the Oscars when it was initially televised and instead watched it last night online. The controversial goof up at the closing made me decide that I should wait no longer and see why this movie was making such waves. No, I’m not talking about La La Land, which was such a derivative piece of drama that I have no idea why it even made it to the Oscars, much less how Emma Stone snagged the Best Actress title when Amy Adams’s performance in Arrival didn’t even get nominated. I’m obviously talking about Moonlight.
I’ll admit, I had another reason for not watching it in the theater. Everything about the poster indicated how stark the story will be. Blood will spill on screen and there will be plenty of cause for tears to run down my cheeks. Of course, I was hesitant about making a prat of myself in public; that’s reserved for special occasions, like when Auntie Flo comes to visit. Now, however, I decided the timing was close enough to match my cycles and for some cathartic tears to let loose.
So what did I learn once I turned on the DVD? The poster is misleading on the level of blood-spill. Even though the kid’s nose is broken and bleeding, it’s not another gangster movie full of gunfights in the hood [I don’t always watch trailers]. Of course, I had managed to surmise from snippets of Jimmy Kimmel’s jokes that it was about the self-discovery of an African American boy coming to terms with his homosexuality but the poster still suggested violence and last night I began to wonder if the story depicted child sexual abuse. Nope, also not it.
Actually, there was very little violence in the movie but there could have been. I love movies that do not fuss around with frills for the sake of shock value. Movies that just tell the stories about the characters. This movie did that with such precision that I was nervous throughout the movie for Chiron. Every drop of maternal extinct God gave me was wrenching my heart for the child. Even after he grew into a man and a drug dealer, I wanted to crawl into the screen and console him for the grief he had to experience. I was right about one thing from seeing the poster. I cried.
I bawled, I wept into the neck of my dress until nothing less than a bath towel sufficed. I wondered if it was the fact that I was almost at that time of the month that made me so emotional. But I think it was mostly because of the way the story was told. It must’ve evoked different ethos in different viewers. For me, it was completely maternal. I don’t have any children to spare my bountiful share of the stuff and usually shower it on my cat. Chiron got the whole blast of it today. Still, being so close to my periods might have made it worse.
When the movie was over, I had to go lie down. My head was throbbing, my eyes bleary. I kept thinking why any child must go through life being excluded in such a manner. Where the hell were those angels we keep hearing about that always keep a lookout for our kids? History of the world certain tells a different story. I didn’t quite blame the bullies in his school; they were the products of our culture, they were kids themselves. But hell! There is just so much wrong with this world.
And then it dawned on me. That’s why I write, isn’t it? That’s why Tarell Alvin McCraney wrote In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue. To fix this broken world by pointing out exactly what is wrong with it. Writers are born change agents whether they intend to be or not. By depicting the mess of our contemporary lives, even lightly, we lead the way into a hopefully better future. It is slow progress but a bid for revolution nevertheless. I felt connected to McCraney and sighed, feeling slightly better.
In fact, I was hooked to the movie from the moment Maharshala Ali spoke the line, “In moonlight, black boys look blue.” The writer in me woke up and replied, “Damn! That’s observant.” It brought to mind another beautiful observation by the Bengali poet Sukanta Bhattacharya in reflection of his experience of communism:
হে মহাজীবন, আর এ কাব্য নয়
এবার কঠিন, কঠোর গদ্যে আনো,
পদ-লালিত্য-ঝঙ্কার মুছে যাক,
গদ্যের কড়া হাতুড়িকে আজ হানো ।
প্রয়োজন নেই, কবিতার স্নিগ্ধতা,
কবিতা তোমায় দিলাম আজকে ছুটি
ক্ষুধার রাজ্যে পৃথিবী-গদ্যময়:
পূর্ণিমা-চাঁদ যেন ঝলসানো রুটি ।
Oh! Great Life
Oh! Great life, No more of this poetry
Bring now the hard, harsh prose instead,
Let jingles nurtured in verse fade,
And the strong hammer of prose strike.
No need for the serenity of poem;
Poetry, I give you a break today.
In the regime of hunger, the world is too prosaic,
As the full moon burns like bread.
I did my best to translate.