Moonlight director Barry Jenkins: 'Oscars success is not guaranteed'

Barry Jenkins never intended to break awards barriers with his new film Moonlight.

Barry Jenkins won't allow himself to assume he will win the Oscar for Best Director at next month’s (Feb17) ceremony.

While the Academy Awards nominees are yet to be announced, critics are predicting Barry’s film Moonlight, which he directed will be given numerous nods. At the Golden Globes the movie, a coming of age drama set in a drug riddled area of Miami, bagged the gong for Best Motion Picture – Drama. Barry missed out on best director though, with the award going to Damien Chazelle for La La Land.

“We can't safely assume anything. We shouldn't, we won't, and we can't,” Barry told America’s Esquire of being the first black director to win at the Oscars. “It's not because no black director has ever been worthy of being nominated for Best Director. That's just not the case. The same way Kathryn (Bigelow) is the first woman to win Best Director (for 2008’s The Hurt Locker). She's certainly not the first woman to merit that distinction.”

And in a perfect illustration of Barry's comments, on Tuesday (10Jan17) Barry failed to make the cut for a best director nomination at the 2017 British Academy of Film and Television Awards (BAFTA), with disappointed fans taking to Twitter to condemn the snub. The hashtag #BAFTAsSoWhite quickly began circulating on Twitter, reminiscent of the outcry following last year's lack of diversity in the Oscars' shortlist. However, Moonlight did score four BAFTA nominations including Best Film and Best Screenplay for Barry.

On potentially winning an Oscar, Barry admits it was never his intention to “break barriers” when he started the project.

“What it would mean for me is very different from what it would mean for the Academy or what it would mean for this and that. The work I did was not engineered towards breaking down some barriers. But also, the barrier is not mine to break down,” he sighed. “The barrier belongs to the Academy. That's all I'll say about that. I don't like to talk about that stuff at all—because it has nothing to do with the film.

“We made the film a year ago, and whether I'm nominated, the movie's nominated, Mahershala (Ali, lead actor) is nominated, whether we're nominated and we win or lose, it's not going to fundamentally change the film.”

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