Chiron: in Greek mythology he is the famed tutor responsible for teaching some of the great heroes, from Achilles to Hercules, Theseus to Jason. But the Bates campus learned on Wednesday, March 1 that Chiron could also refer to the protagonist in Barry Jenkins’ Academy Award winning film, Moonlight. Jointly put on by Filmboard and the Office of Intercultural Education (OIE), the Moonlight screening and discussion afterwards was a way for the Bates community to experience the film and then have a safe space in which to unpack their feelings, questions, or concerns.
In this film, the audience follows Chiron through his life and gets to see all the pivot points and experiences that result in his adult persona. Split into three parts, the movie follows a fairly simply chronological trajectory, posing hard-hitting questions with thought provoking themes.
Maddie Auvinen ’17, a biochemistry major and President of Filmboard, organized the event in conjunction with Julisa De Los Santos, Assistant Dean in the OIE. In an interview, Auvinen remembered, “Julisa and I had talked about showing Moonlight very briefly last semester. I had never heard of the film, but looked up a few trailers and reviews, and thought it would be great to show at Bates.”
After the screening, the audience was invited to stay for a discussion facilitated by Calvin Reedy ’17 and Rhetoric Professor Charles I. Nero. Reedy, an Art & Visual Culture major, often frequents the OIE and was happy when De Los Santos asked him to help lead the discussion. Reedy remarks that, “Julisa asked me specifically because she is very familiar with my studio art thesis work…My body of work in photography and video explores ways to rethink and re-present notions of black masculinity; focusing a lot on tenderness and vulnerability, both with oneself and with others.” Reedy was able to use his thesis knowledge base as a springboard to help propel, steer, and assist the conversation taking place after the credits rolled.
There is more to this movie than its overt tones and topics. Reedy wants the community to “realize that black films don’t have to be about racism to be worthy of being watched and celebrated. There are stories that deserve to be told as well, and that are moving for all people. There don’t need to be white saviors – or in the case of Moonlight, there don’t even need to be white people – for a black film to be excellent.”
Simultaneously, the film was able to bring out salient messages to the audience, be a popular attraction, and shake the foundation of Hollywood, even if just a little. By granting Moonlight the Academy Award, it joins the ranks of giants standing proudly beside Casablanca, Rain Man, and Schindler’s List, to name a few. Hollywood acknowledges that a small budget film with an all-black cast can make a prodigious impact. And by choosing to show it here at Bates and getting the huge turnout from our community illustrates that our college and its inhabitants share this sentiment. Auvinen noted that over one hundred people reserved tickets for the event, an almost unprecedented number for a Filmboard event.
Maybe it all goes back to the name. Chiron. He educates each and every person who sits down to watch the movie and maybe that is what drew much of our community to the Mays Center that Wednesday night. White, Black, Hispanic, Asia, Jewish, Muslim, Christian, immigrant, it does not matter. Once you sit down to watch this movie, Chiron teaches you about his world, about the world many Americans know, the work that many refuse to acknowledge, and about which many are content to forget.