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Moonlight Makes Queer History at the Oscars

And the winner is...

A powerful ending to the world’s most coveted cinema awards ceremony as Moonlight, a small independent queer film about the life of a gay black man, beat favourite La La Land to take the evening’s top prize. It becomes the first LGBTQ themed film in Oscar history to win the coveted Best Picture prize.

The underdog win came as a surprise to everyone after a mix up with envelops meant presenters Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway accidentally gave the prize to La La Land. After some initial confusion, the Oscar was handed over to Moonlight’s producers.

There hasn’t been so much hype around an LGBTQ film at the Oscars since 2005, when Brokeback Mountain lost out on the top honour. Since then, protests against a lack of diversity have foregrounded issues of race, gender and queer representation. Last year, the hashtag #OscarsSoWhite drew attention not only to the lack of non-white nominees for acting prizes, but the lack of diversity in casting.

Moonlight is all the more remarkable then for its intersectionality. There have been few mainstream films on queerness and black identity, or which reflect the struggles of poverty experienced by marginalised people. Shows like Modern Family and Transparent, which portray queer people as white and affluent, misrepresent a reality in which marginalised communities, including queer and colored people, are often more likely to experience poverty, violence and discrimination. Moonlight addresses these issues with grace and insight.

The film grabbed two other gongs out of five nominations. Mahershala Ali picked up Best Supporting Actor for his role as father figure Juan, whilst Best Adapted Screenplay went to Barry Jenkins and Tarell Alvin McCraney.

“This goes out to all those black and brown boys and girls and non-gender conforming who don’t see themselves…this is for you,” said McCraney in his acceptance speech. The gay-identified playwright and director Barry Jenkins both grew up in the impoverished Miami neighbourhood where Moonlight is set.

For queer and marginalized communities everywhere, Moonlight's win at the Academy Awards is monumental. History has been made today, and a nod from the most prestigious cinema community in the world will only ensure a brighter future for queer filmmakers, queer content and the queer culture movement at large.



CINEMQ is a queer short film screening + party series. It is run by a group of queers with too much on their mind to sit still for long. We’re publishing articles on queer cinema and screen culture every week. Want to contribute? Message our account.

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