Arguably the most memorable moment to take place at the Academy Awards during the past decade was the Best Picture mixup that caused the 2017 Oscars to end in chaos.
As viewers will recall, presenters Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway read “La La Land” when “Moonlight” was the actual winner, thanks to an envelope mixup that wasn’t rectified until after the “La La Land” acceptance speeches had been made.
Looking back at that infamous moment, “Moonlight” director Barry Jenkins admits he’s saddened that the controversy over the Oscar gaffe has come to overshadow his film.
“Because we were awarded Best Picture in that way, that clip was shown so many places,” Jenkins said in an interview with IndieWire. “I have no doubt in my mind, out of anything I ever do in my life, and who knows what’s to come ahead, but that particular moment is going to be the most visible thing that’s ever associated with me, for better or for worse. The good thing is there were maybe people who had never heard of the film or who had seen it but did not know who I was or what I looked like. This movie played in a lot of small places… because of how loud [the Oscars] was, they did see it.”
In fact, Jenkins said tries to avoid watching footage of the moment.
“It didn’t feel special in the moment for me personally… it was actually quite frightening what was happening given everything going on in the world. I thought some very nefarious things were happening. I didn’t have the camera angles you guys had. It was almost like being in the parking lot at the let out and pop, pop, pop. That’s where my mind went,” he explained.
However, his biggest complaint about what took place is that it gave way to the notion that “Moonlight” won because the Academy was under pressure to award a film from a Black director and featuring a Black cast.
“In a slightly sinister way, the f**k-up confirms or affirms some people’s unsavoury thoughts about why the film was awarded Best Picture,” he said.
“If you did the blind taste test of films and wrote down all the accolades this film achieved that year, whether it be the ratings, the reviews, all of these things, [then ‘Moonlight’ wins]. If we were at the NFL Combine, and I tell you, ‘This player has these measures and was drafted number one,’ you wouldn’t doubt it at all. And yet, when you get into ‘Oh, it’s because it was the Black film’…it’s like no, motherf**ker. We ran a [4.2 second 40-yard dash], and we ran it barefoot because we didn’t have the benefits of all that private school Academy training,” Jenikins added.
However, Jenkins said that he will always have the moment when he and “Moonlight” screenwriter Tarell Alvin McCraney paid a visit to the now-demolished Florida neighbourhood where they grew up. “Every now and then it hits me, that holy s**t two cats who grew up here on welfare cheese in the 1980s… we get on stage and got Oscars handed to us and everyone in the room stood up on their feet,” he recalled. “The room was so full.”