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Why we owe it to Brokeback Mountain to support Moonlight

Why we owe it to Brokeback Mountain to support Moonlight

Brokeback Mountain lost out on the Best Picture Oscar in 2006 – but can Moonlight do it?

So, plenty of great news from the Golden Globes last night.

Sarah Paulson, girlfriend of Holland Taylor, won Best Actress in a Limited Series or TV Movie. Meanwhile, Meryl Streep delivered a withering put down of Trump during her Cecil B. DeMille Life Achievement Award acceptance speech.

And La La Land – which looks like the most joyously camp musical in decades – won a clutch of awards.


And yet, I feel a palpable anger. Why? Because Moonlight, one of the best movies about gay love ever made, took home only won one award. Best Drama.

This is a great achievement for the cast (including Alex Hibbert and Mahershala Ali, pictured above) and director Barry Jenkins. But it’s a bittersweet victory. It lost in the five other categories it was nominated in.

If this is any indication of how the Oscars will go next month, I’m worried.


And with good reason. Lesbian love story Carol [starring Rooney Mara and Cate Blanchett, pictured above], was snubbed last year, despite six nominations. Meanwhile, unforgettable trans drama Tangerine failed to pick up any nods, despite extensive campaigning.

And I still haven’t forgotten perhaps the greatest Oscars injustice ever: Crash robbing Brokeback Mountain of Best Picture in 2006.

The stirring cowboy romance only won three awards that year. Best Original Score, Best Writing Adapted Screenplay, and Best Director for Ang Lee.


Brokeback [starring Jake Gyllenhaal and the late Heath Ledger, pictured above] is now considered a Hollywood classic. Crash still divides opinion.

And in a re-poll of Academy members last year, Brokeback triumphed over its contemporary. But it doesn’t placate my anger that voters seem prejudiced against LGBTI stories and characters. Not to mention openly LGBTI actors and actresses.

In Moonlight’s case, there is further potential prejudice to consider. The film focuses on a black protagonist; the troubled, repressed Chiron. (A role shared by child actor Alex Hibbert, teen actor Ashton Sanders and Trevante Rhodes – all excellent).


What does this means in light of last year’s #OscarsSoWhite controversy, when black stars failed to pick up any nominations in major categories? It remains to be seen.

But as a detailed portrait of black masculinity, Moonlight is uncompromising, excruciating. With an almost entirely black cast, its message about race is arguably more more powerful than its message about sexuality.

In fact, sexuality is treated with such subtlety that Chrion’s is hardly addressed on-screen – as one commentator asked recently: ‘Does Moonlight show gay cinema has to be sexless to succeed?’

That said, the statement Moonlight makes about intersectional identity – Chiron is black and queer, which brings with it unique challenges – is a calling card. Oscar glory for Moonlight would be a win for all young black, queer boys in the current political climate. It would be a win for anyone who’s ever been prejudiced against.


Of course, whether Moonlight sweeps the Oscars – indeed, whether it scores any nominations at all – doesn’t change the fact that it’s a work of art that deserves awards. The same goes for South Korean lesbian drama The Handmaiden [above], which is performing well on the awards circuit. And perhaps once I’ve seen it, I’ll concede La La Land, the hot favourite to win Best Picture, is the better film.

But the thought that queer cinema fails to get the recognition it deserves enrages me. As for LGBTI people who haven’t seen Brokeback Mountain? Don’t get me started. I’m not sure if there’s much we could’ve done to change its fate, or Moonlight’s at this point. But we have a duty to keep the legacies of both alive.


Watch them, and if you’ve already seen them, watch them again. Then, discuss and recommend to the people you know. Help queer cinema reach the audience it deserves. Because if we aren’t enthusiastic about seeing ourselves on screen, how can we expect heterosexual people to be?

This year’s Oscar nominations will be released on Tuesday 24 January. Until then I’m waiting with baited breath – and also, a healthy dose of optimism. Because Moonlight is that good.