Barry Jenkins has revealed what would have been his acceptance speech for Moonlight winning the Oscar for Best Picture. He was unable to give this speech at the 89th Academy Awards ceremony because of the unforgettable Best Picture winner mix-up.
Many cinephiles would have pegged La La Land as the likely Best Picture winner, based off of the Academy’s previous behavior. La La Land was in many ways a remarkable achievement for director Damien Chazelle, but it was more or less Oscar fodder. Moonlight was the unlikely contender, the beautifully moving type of film that is usually ignored by the Academy. No one was surprised when Faye Dunaway read La La Land as the Best Picture winner, but we were all stunned by the very unintentional bait-and-switch to reveal that Moonlight was, in fact, the winner for Best Picture.
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This was a historic moment, not only for the Academy, but also for Hollywood and cinema itself. As fun as the mix-up was for the rest of the world, Jenkins and the rest of his Moonlight team were robbed of the moment to celebrate a victory. Because of the confusion, and also because of the probable utter shock, Jenkins was unable to deliver his prepared speech at the ceremony. Fortunately for the rest of us, and probably for Jenkins as well, he was able to deliver his acceptance speech at a SXSW panel this week, recorded by a panel attendee. The whole speech can be found in a report by Deadline.
“Tarell and I are Chiron. We are that boy. And when you watch Moonlight, you don’t assume a boy who grew up how and where we did would grow up and make a piece of art that wins an Academy Award — certainly don’t think he would grow up to win Best Picture. I’ve said that a lot and what I’ve had to admit is that I placed those limitations on myself. I denied myself that dream — not you, not anyone else — me. And so, to anyone watching this who sees themselves in us, let this be a symbol, a reflection that leads you to love yourself. Because doing so may be the difference between dreaming at all and somehow, through the Academy’s grace, realizing dreams you never allowed yourself to have.”
Moonlight was a deeply personal film for Jenkins, and he’s since said that the Oscar flub kind of ruined the whole ceremony for him. Based off of the undeniable greatness of this film, he will more than likely have another moment in the spotlight at some point, but it will never be for his work on Moonlight. He’s understandably disappointed by the whole affair, but at least we get to hear the speech he had planned on giving.
Jenkins basically started his career at SXSW 10 years ago with his first feature-length film, Medicine for Melancholy, so this opportunity to share his acceptance speech as a keynote speaker is pretty special. Since Moonlight, Jenkins has been fairly busy. He is currently wrapping up If Beale Street Could Talk, based on the James Baldwin Harlem-set romance, and will produce Underground Railroad, a Pulitzer-winning novel from Colson Whitehead, for Amazon. These are two high-profile productions that will continue to make Jenkins a household name.