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No moonlit epiphany for this reviewer

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Nozipho Mpanza
March05/ 2017

“’What if two white women had this to say about a film made about us, one that spoke to our struggles,” she pointed out. I dismissed that. My intuitive response was, “It’s not the same.”
But it’s exactly the same’.”I’m not a big fan of movies. Partially because I find them expensive to watch at the cinema and also because I feel that they take far too much of one’s time, so I’m generally just not into it. Now and again, a movie will make great media waves and I’ll want to jump on the bandwagon and get involved. This is exactly what happened with the highly acclaimed film Moonlight. I was sold on all the hype that surrounded the movie and so I set a date with myself.
There I was, eyes wide open, popcorn in one hand, lemon and lime flavoured slush puppy in another and a box of whispers tucked under my arm. I was all geared up and ready to be blown away. I watched the movie from beginning to end, even stayed to see if they would play any of the deleted scenes, as they do in some movies, and I have never been more underwhelmed by a film.
Shortly after writing my movie review, I discussed the movie with a good friend of mine. I did most of the talking to be honest, but my friend engaged me, (like all good friends should). So there we were, two black heterosexual females discussing the merit of a movie that speaks to the issues of black homosexuals. I found no issue with this until my friend highlighted the peculiar nature of my rant. “What if two white women had this to say about a film made about us, one that spoke to our struggles,” she pointed out. I dismissed that. My intuitive response was, “It’s not the same.”
But it’s exactly the same.
The movie is about the journey of a gay black man growing up in a rough neighbourhood. In many ways, it’s the first of its kind. One rarely sees members of the LGBTI community depicted in box office hits, less so if they are not the conventional gay/lesbian flamboyant friend of the protagonist.
The film also introduces the viewer to an unusual kind of vulnerability, played by the oldest version of the protagonist where you are shown a masculine, drug-selling black man cry. In fact, he weeps. This comes in the closing scene and leaves the viewer with a discomforting image.
My issue with Moonlight was how incomplete the movie felt. I left the movie wishing the whole story had been tied up more “neatly”.
“That can’t be how it ends,” I thought. The spans of silence throughout the movie bothered me. I asked myself if they couldn’t fill it with more dialogue here and tell us a little bit more about what happens there.
Although I have not had an epiphany where I suddenly hail all things Moonlight, I have realised that my perception of the movie has revealed the depth of my ignorance. I’ve come to learn that the silence that carries the movie is perfectly placed because those ARE the realities of the people that Moonlight is speaking to. They may have the words to express their emotions but the platforms and opportunities to do so are few.
I now know that for many people in the LGBTI community, that is exactly how the story ends. My heterosexual, “romcom” and fairytale approach to a love story is not a template in the world and, although valid because those were my thoughts, my initial impressions of the film were ignorant.
I am an advocate for freedom of opinion and robust debate but I also believe in relevance of opinion. It simply cannot be that a Best Motion Picture Oscar Award–winning and critically–acclaimed film tells an “okay” story. So, I was probably wrong and my lesson of the week is, “Check yourself before you put your hand up, honey.”

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Nozipho Mpanza