I don’t normally do movie reviews on here (though perhaps I should start given that I love movies more than just about anything else) but after seeing two movies in the last twenty-four hours, combined with everything that’s going on in the national election, I felt I had to start.
Where to begin? Set and filmed in Miami, Moonlight follows the life of Little/Chiron/Black as he grows up through the crack era of the 80s/90s and into adulthood. With standout performances by the whole cast, including my favorite from Luke Cage, Mahershala Ali, as well as Janelle Monae, it’s no surprise it’s already getting Oscar buzz. Moonlight beautifully and powerfully explores themes of addiction, loneliness, machismo, homophobia, bullying, mass incarceration and the black experience without being remotely heavy-handed or melodramatic. I don’t want to give too much away, so I’ll just leave you with the trailer. It really is a must-see:
I followed up Moonlight with 13th, a fairly new Netflix documentary about the 13th amendment and specifically its phrasing that allows slavery in the case of someone who has committed a crime:
“Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.”
13th isn’t cinematic or beautiful (though it is haunting). It’s mainly professors, politicians, civil rights activists and even someone from ALEC giving interviews about mass incarceration and racial politics from the “end” of slavery to today. It implicates Republicans and Democrats in almost equal measure, and it’s depressing as hell. It also has so many important facts held within that I want to watch it over and over and unpack every one. It’s a wonderful complement to Moonlight in that it explores many of the same issues but from a policy and historical point of view rather than a dramatic one. I feel like I learned more from this film than I did from any U.S. History class in high school or college. Here’s the trailer.
Have you seen either of these films? If so, what did you think?