When the Academy Award nominations were announced Tuesday morning, Miami had a lot to celebrate. “Moonlight,” the drama about three chapters in the life of a young man growing up in Liberty City, earned eight nominations, including Best Picture, Best Director for Miami native Barry Jenkins and Best Adapted Screenplay for Jenkins and fellow Miamian Tarell Alvin McCraney, who wrote the autobiographical play that inspired the film, “In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue.”
Since so many people in South Florida either worked on the film or contributed to its making, we asked Jenkins and McCraney what they would say if they could round up everyone who has been celebrating the Oscar nominations into one room.
“I’d be thankful for sure,” Jenkins told the Herald via telephone from the Rotterdam Film Festival on Wednesday afternoon, where “Moonlight” is being screened. “But because I’m such a process person and not a results person, I would take the Oscars off the table and say there are lots of other folks doing work in Miami that we should also be prideful about.
“Not everything can end up getting nominated for eight Academy Awards,” Jenkins said. “But a lot of work being made in Miami — the work that Borscht does and what Tarell does at the African Heritage Cultural Arts Center — comes from the same creative energy ‘Moonlight’ came from. I’m glad the movie can be a symbol, but there’s so many people who worked on this film that I would be just as proud even if we didn’t get nominated.”
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“I still can’t believe the news and yet here we are,” McCraney said via email. “I hope the people of Miami are proud, I hope Liberty City is proud. I hope we can all look at Barry and call him a pioneer and be proud. Proud enough to make sure we always find the ways, means, and platforms to tell OUR stories.”
McCraney ended his statement by quoting a line from the movie.
“As Barry wrote and [actress] Janelle Monáe delivered: ‘It’s All love and All pride in this house, you feel me?!’ ”
Jenkins was traveling through Amsterdam when the nominations were revealed Tuesday. He said his mother and sister watched the announcement live and were “super excited,” although he hasn’t been able to speak to them yet outside of text messages.
The director also revealed that “Moonlight” almost wasn’t shot in Miami because of the lack of state-funded tax incentives, which had been depleted by the time the $5 million movie was filmed in the fall of 2015.
“I had to face my producers and say ‘Look, I know we could maybe set this movie in New Orleans or Atlanta, because those states have tax incentives, and the budget would go a lot further.’ For a movie of this size, that would have made a meaningful difference. But we stuck to our guns and took the hit and decided to make it in Miami. I’m glad we did, because that was the only place to make it. But if we’d had those tax incentives, the movie could be even a little bit stronger aesthetically than it is. I think they need to bring the incentives back.”
“Moonlight” has earned almost $16 million since its release in October and is currently playing in theaters, including the Bill Cosford Cinema and the O Cinema Wynwood, where it continues a record-setting 11-week (and counting) run.