Teaching Students About the Movie “Moonlight”
Moonlight, directed by Barry Jenkins and based on Tarell Alvin McCraney’s play “In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue,” is a coming-of-age drama that tells a powerful and deeply emotive story about an African American boy named Chiron, struggling to find his identity while grappling with issues of race, sexuality, and masculinity. Teaching students about this award-winning film offers an opportunity to encourage critical thinking, empathy, and a broader understanding of the complexities of human relationships.
The Importance of Context
In order to effectively teach students about Moonlight, it is crucial to highlight the historical and social context in which the film is set. The story of Chiron takes place in a predominantly African American neighborhood in Miami, at a time when issues related to race, poverty, drug addiction, and violence were prominent. By focusing on these external factors, teachers can assist students in understanding the intersectionality that shapes Chiron’s life experiences.
Themes of Identity
Moonlight deals with themes of identity from various perspectives. Teachers can inspire deep discussions by touching upon these key themes from the film:
1. Race and stereotypes
The film challenges racial stereotypes by featuring characters who defy common expectations. By discussing specific character choices with students, teachers can encourage conversations on the power and limitations of breaking through stereotypes.
Chiron’s journey to self-discovery is greatly affected by his evolving sexual identity. By analyzing key moments in his life where he confronts his homosexuality – from childhood to adolescence to adulthood – teachers can provoke conversations on acceptance and rejection within different communities.
Moonlight delves into the complexities of masculinity as well as societal pressures that dictate expected behaviors for men. Encouraging students to discuss how these expectations impact Chiron’s relationships with male figures such as Juan, Kevin, and Chiron’s mother’s boyfriend highlights the multiple dimensions of masculinity.
Utilizing Visual Analysis
Moonlight’s stunning cinematography is an excellent opportunity for teachers to engage students in visual analysis. Teachers can encourage students to consider framing, lighting and color, camera movement, and editing techniques employed by the filmmakers, and what impact these elements have on the emotions and meaning of specific scenes.
Reflection and Personal Connection
Giving students the chance to reflect on their own personal experiences, biases, and perspectives provides a deeper appreciation for the film and its themes. Teachers can assign reflective writing tasks or foster open discussions within the classroom where students feel comfortable sharing experiences related to race, sexuality, or identity.
Teaching students about Moonlight is an enriching experience that not only invites a deep understanding of important societal issues but also guides them in developing critical thinking skills. By addressing relevant themes, analyzing cinematic techniques, and encouraging personal reflection, teachers can create a safe space for students to learn more about themselves through the lens of this powerful film.