The Film that Changed Everything

2016 was a stellar year for film. From a technical and creative perspective, 2016 offered stories that had interesting messages to communicate while incorporating game-changing techniques that provided fresh perspective and maximum impact. Arrival was a new masterclass in sound design, La La Land revitalized a genre while respectfully deconstructing associated tropes and building on themes set up by director Damien Chazelle's Whiplash (2014). Sing Street was one of the most inspirational coming-of-age stories hardly anyone else saw and Manchester by the Sea was possibly one of the most emotionally effective cinematic experiences these eyes ever witnessed. However, there was one film that stood as a landmark in creative inspiration that genuinely changed the way I thought about life. This film was Moonlight and it remains one of the most important films I've ever seen.

For anyone that's seen the film, you would know how beautifully rendered each frame is from start to finish. You would have a visceral sense of intimacy with thoroughly developed characters and nuanced performances of the cast. You would feel the impact of the musical score and tender story that universally speaks to anyone regardless of race, nationality, gender, or sexual orientation. At the heart of Moonlight is self-authenticity and the film brilliantly explores these themes by presenting us with a character that learns who he is, fights who he is, changes who he is to survive, and then comes to accept who he is when it's safe to do so.

When the film had ended and the credits rolled, I remember sitting there in deathly silence. I was in awe at how much I saw myself in the main character. Even more surprising was how little I actually had in common with "Chiron." As a white, straight, privileged man, how could I have anything in common with this character? As I reflected on this question and the impact the film had on me, I looked down several rows in front me and saw a young gay couple, silent and in tears.

How had they felt watching the film? Did they finally feel represented fairly? Did they see themselves in the character as well? Were they heartbroken? Inspired? Both? Had they experienced years of prejudice and hate (in an area where that was common) and finally felt some needed validation for who they were? A part of me wishes I could've asked them and another part is glad I didn't intrude such a personal experience.

The car ride home was serene. I became more aware of the subconscious effect the film had on me as I pondered the two lessons Moonlight gave to me.

1) The power of cinema transcends cultural barriers and speaks to the human experience. It's a universal language that can cut through our own prejudices, pierce our being, and completely alter how we view the world.

2) There is nothing wrong with, nor anything more important than self-authenticity.

To some degree, perhaps all of us have killed parts of ourselves to adapt and survive our environment. We sacrifice who we deeply are to integrate into a community or build ourselves in ways that contradict who we are but feel the need to defend ourselves. What Moonlight offers for us is the inevitability that who we are will always be there, waiting for its time to live.

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