‘Moonlight,’ based on former professor’s play, nominated for 8 Academy Awards

Former professor Tarell McCraney and President Julio Frenk discuss the independent film “Moonlight” during a Q&A session Wednesday night in Cosford Cinema. Hunter Crenian // Staff Photographer

“Moonlight,” the independent film based on a play by former University of Miami theater professor Tarell McCraney, has been nominated for eight Academy Awards just two weeks after taking home the award for Best Motion Picture – Drama at the 74th-annual Golden Globes. McCraney recently stepped down from his teaching role on Dec. 31 shortly after being named the new Yale School of Drama playwriting department chair. He will still be on campus in this semester to work on pending projects, according to Department of Theatre Arts Chairman Stephen Di Benedetto.

McCraney and director Barry Jenkins worked together to write the film’s screenplay, based on McCraney’s 2003 play, “In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue.”

They have both been nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay for “Moonlight.”

Jenkins said he and McCraney both grew up in Liberty City, Miami, the location in which “Moonlight” takes place and was filmed, in an interview with The New York Times.

While they did not meet until they were in their 30s, both Jenkins and McCraney shared similar experiences in Liberty City. Thus, they decided to team up and write a story about growing up in one of the poorest and most forgotten neighborhoods in Miami.

Due to Jenkins’ authentic representation of Miami and the hardships of life growing up in the city, he has also been nominated for Best Director.

The film is one of several movies with minority leads that have been nominated for Best Picture, shaking up the Academy’s last two years of only nominating films featuring predominantly white actors.

Mahershala Ali and Naomie Harris were both acknowledged by the Academy with nominations for Best Supporting Actor and Actress, respectively, for their roles in “Moonlight.” Ali plays a mentor to the film’s protagonist, and Harris plays his troubled mother.  This year’s list of acting nominees is the most diverse since the 2014 Academy Awards, when Best Picture winner “12 Years a Slave” highlighted the talents of Chiwetel Ejiofor, nominated for Best Actor, and Lupita Nyong’o, who won for Best Supporting Actress.

“Moonlight”  has also been nominated for Best Film Editing, Best Original Music Score and Best Cinematography.

There will be a special screening of “Moonlight” at the Cosford Cinema on Wednesday at 6 p.m., which will be followed by a Q&A session with McCraney and UM President Julio Frenk. The event is currently at capacity and waitlist-only.

“Moonlight” will play again on Thursday at 8:45 p.m. at Cosford. Tickets for this screening start at $8.

The film will also play for free next month at Cosford on Feb. 15 and 18 at 9:30 p.m., as part of the Cinematic Arts Commission’s weekly student screenings.

The 88th Academy Awards will take place Feb. 26 at 7 p.m. EST on ABC.

Correction, 2:31 p.m Jan. 25, 2017; The article previously described playwright Tarell McCraney as a “former University of Miami theater professor” with no additional description. The article has been amended to add further information about McCraney’s remaining involvements on campus.