'Moonlight' Director Says He Can't Watch His Film With an Audience

Jenkins appears on 'Popcorn With Peter Travers' to talk about the making of his film.
22:11 | 01/11/17

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Transcript for 'Moonlight' Director Says He Can't Watch His Film With an Audience
Perhaps general. Why you come home I just still. Can you always yield. Whole blood. A phone yesterday. Don't hold fifty. The boys Jason and it could skip morning. Woods and weight lift us. Thinks his team into. He usually can take kids is self. Good handling. Will mayor. Hi everybody I'm Peter Travers in this is popcorn where we tell you what's happening at the movies and I've got to say about the movie moon there are some movies that are good some that are excellent and some that transcend that and just become something goes to me. In the movie time that you just keep it for. So I don't say that to intimidate my guess today just because he directed and wrote it. But I just wanna say at the starting. This was an amazing incredible films are actually ends that you remove regulations to thank you very much appreciate it that would. He wants the mark. Okay popcorn it's been really good well let me start before we get into the movie and this. Is not only great movie but it may be it has been reviewed rapturous slaying Newton. You've been at festivals with people running at UT. Do you don't know much you know a move this process once before at a much lower level medicine from mounds of Mets for melancholy exactly. And you know I became aware of what it can be like when you regional press. Apologists say. And so what this film you know I made a point of about a week before premier Telluride. The kind of sat down myself. A look at what would matter if it's in there and I decided you know what I felt we was you know the quality of the work we've done. In the result was those very proud. Of the film. Erica to stay in that place. Which is great because you know the reaction has been you know overwhelmingly positive. In a way that would overwhelm me at an already decided for myself you know our thoughts about the film but. Before I go on asking all of these questions I'm curious about. Can you set up a little bit for everybody what is from your point of view what kind of movie you give me. You know it's a coming of age film about this kits are Rome growing up. And this neighborhood called Liberty City which is like Compton south central of Miami. But we do is is that telling this coming of eight story in an effort to form of like. You know eighty beats and a hundred minutes you know we kind of break it down to three chapters these three vignettes from this guy's life when he's a child wanted to teenager. When he's a young man. The sort of telling eighty feet under minutes until it will be six beats you know but the most important and most important events in northern states this guy's life. And I think in doing it that way he sort of put a magnifying glass you know held the world to shaping. These young men from the community that I grew up was the singer's plea rights room Akron. Yes so it's based on the plan. Thanks to Rome based on the play you know throw wrote this in 2003. He was an undergrad at DePaul and he was applying to Yale school drama. Long before he was on the carpet genius and and I consider it. But the starting point you know I don't think this was ever meant to be staged. Theater as they it was a young playwright who wasn't sure where the should be states. And so when it came to me fully gotten past the time and I kind of just continued fourth. Parents the form that's in. As the feature film. Well talking about personal and Miami's we grew up yet where's wanna raise and you know I never expected in a nothing have done to this point. Has been set in Miami you know only made one short film there isn't too and well. It was Obama personally growing up there so when a Ritz rules piece I saw so much of myself and it. And then of course the character plea by them Harris character Paula. Who was arming cactus moment. The to crack cocaine and both my moments Rosemont. We're both addicted to crack cocaine me torment grew up blocks one another so it's quite likely that his mom and my mom used drugs together you know at some point. And he had done such a good job. But depicting what it's like to be a child of someone addicted to drugs. That again and saw myself fully in the character. But pat makes it hard. To eat it it has. The it has to be painful as great as Naomi axes and blame them. You know you know it made the writing it easier but does more fluid because I wasn't and in the make a lot of you know. To shake things but and to make a lot of good draw for personal experience. Directing her was yes it was difficult it was painful it was like you're saying that's not my mother. Oh yes and if it but yes I've been with someone that gifted that skilled and and in an as a director you know separating parts myself. I know when to push this a bit further news than it used to. You know be heightened. In Naomi was so skilled as she could go to these places but every time who served as part of me is that cruel. And don't don't go that far it's the comfortable. But you know we went there and I think again people are reacting to the film in this way because we all went there to woods will for people who have been. Seen the movie yet and you have to go so there's no excuses. It isn't really a story basically about this relationship between this boy and his mother it's part of it. It's part of it and her drug addiction is part of it but it's also him dealing with his again it. In his identity as we begin this scene is teenage years which is at Newton. Now I'd sure everybody comes up to you and says what was it like growing up game and beaten but he did debts they. I don't know I didn't think I'm sorry it is I'm a straight guy and why out absences. But you started with the Mitt teary yeah. Milla to say you know to row you know sort of parents and to let the second second leg exchange and it is the certain elements of the story that I couldn't craft it myself you know. Health and believe you know these governors he'd be told from first person perspective. And there are this is one element of several 1002 that I can identify with. Of its road at such a good job. Putting himself on the page. That for me if elected record wet my empathy. While preserving its rules boys. I could take authorship. Of the peace as an act of allies. Now a is that you know letting grow up that way however to rove did in his voice as riddled well this piece. Until it can I gave myself the leeway you know that. And actually wrote and trusted me to carry four. Which was really good but you know that things one of the many things admire her he. It's that it should work at all if you think that it really. I mean because you passed three different actors and mine. The news the ranged from the second act the teen age years to him being. Grown yet is. Who is this. Stars it's is in it happens to him and so with all of that you're taking on yourself with your significant feature then. Was this always in your head that you were going to do. All always you know we're right win when it first sort of figured out is that you know when the peace came to me. It was very different inform and shape and other way and that upping the film in the breakthrough was boat was one structural you know when I knew what sort of pull it apart. Tony story and turn. But then to but I decided okay you know. One of the themes in this film is how the world is shaping these young men. And I was like you know we call on the micro aggressions but I think they're actually aggressions. And so we're going to show he's aggressions can radically Alter. The shape of the character and I felt like casting a whole different actor a different person. Wolf very little we show that the character has changed him. And we'll relied on was up as Walter mertz theory from the from in the blink of an about the eyes in the window. And the soul. And our cast director yes Ramirez to LaGrange a cinematographer James lockyer and Rachel two. You know we frame these guys some incidents have been very similar ways across three chapters. And really it was just about fighting these reactors who had the same feeling in their lives much the same soul. The same spirits and you can look at Travolta Rhodes who shows up with her story and just physically sick. He's like he's literally put on a whole Cordoba on you know pursuit of muscles in his in these platinum grills. That you look in his eyes you can still see since then there's still see Alex have to feed that child you see that child you know. Seeing that child who's been in the eyes and of this man in. Isn't this what's incredibly moved yet you we all put on arms some Newton but he's putting on armor an amazing. Thing is it's just. And he's called many things in that the you know I'm just buy one yet called little musical black keys call this what of that. Was your direct experience of growing up many many nicknames. I don't think. Any of their own words or as pointed at the nicknames you know that that the war's direction exercise room remember any. Yeah you know I mean but it plays with silly though I was called old man though because of the very quiet withdrawing connected. Asking these wells called needs here. But what you know what they're about what's in the in this within their particular sorrow and they think they take its cancellation of because got the skin aging dinner. Back at a time with skinny jeans and a popular book. But yet you know I think we're talking about this element of bullying and MacKenzie that I was ever the truly believe. Well but I and but I know would have meant what if elected he picked or you know of into realms much more poignantly. Believe in you know what's reserves force try to get that film will he is he's terribly bleed but he hands. And here's another. I mean in that film of incredible performances. And there's a character who's a drug deal. Her Sheila Alley plays with so brilliantly. A drug dealer who's actually. Possibly selling drugs to the mother and and it's an incredible scene to hear him say -- sell drugs and and yet he's mentoring him Newton did you have any kind of minter care so so I didn't but two road did the whole peace begin. With its rose recollection. Of his friendship his mentor ship that he had. Because local drug dealer and a neighborhood you know this guy come to commoners wings. Are protected and fields wasn't sting has been this conversation about. How the character played over personally this character Wallin. Is not a stereotype. There's like no of course he's not you know he was an actual person you know with the playwright Newton Newton you know and so he's drawn from real people who really it's you know in real emotions. I think when you're working from the inside out. It's kind of a possible to create the stereotype because your action creating. A flesh and look person you know the same thing with Kara to Paula. So I didn't have that personal experience but the whole piece. Begins you know as a foundational character and his wife his presence is always felt so make its presence was starting point you know for the Hokies. What we hear when a movie comes from such a specific. Places and that we're always told. As a compliment I think but to meet doesn't really ring that way. That it's really universal we've all gone through this experience do. Well I'll tell me what I see in art or in any way it comes out of something specific vision and meet seen something I didn't see before how do you approach to do you approach it is. I'm dealing with universal themes can. On I mean this film I try to make it for an audience to you know myself. In the playwright's Roma crane you know Pastrana fidelity. To my story in a story in my experience its experience and experience you know for him Wong you know for me Paula. Shah Rohm and as you said China drill down. And get that right no exit think if you if you creates of in this distinct and unique you know do get a genuine a visceral reaction. The person receiving it you know what I found is the movie and a specificity. Re read it's relatable to every one that's not what I found when I found this. Because throw other two guys from a certain block certain neighborhoods are and there are among what was certain ordeal. Somebody as far as a Boise Idaho goes but might they was nothing like Landon and yet. I went from this thing you know on this corner with a mild gamblers rebel you know if you get you can drill it down to your feet. You know the starts at our feet and you can see how that relates to your feet. Not everyone else's you know it becomes about the person receiving work and when they see the person who created it threw themselves into it. It that it gives them the freedom to sort of put themselves into Tulsa so lets them my expert deficits won't that's a good but. In your experiences and is it difficult for you to. Keep watching this movie with in the house. Welcome it because of only did it. And only got a reusable ones I really didn't watch it Telluride I sat through it in Toronto. Any person could find reasons that goes about them. You know a part of it is because movie is so personal. And the actors to such an amazing job there are just certain things where I'm not watching a movie you know watching. Elements of life you know watching elements it's wells' life. In most of those things you know we think of it it's room alone you know you're on the subway you have this memory. He's caused flash in sharing that he and everyone around you in the theater. Everyone is sitting there. Watching your men won't be stranger exactly all the strangest now and in the in this beautiful thing happens you know at least that happened in the screening it's wrong which was very emotional. I could feel people feeling this thing I was feeling. You know it's almost like it was extremely vulnerable which is what it should be but as somebody who scenes and it's time of that and it but we have Uighur group. Brooklyn. Only way to do win. Even then suddenly it. You see began for some other reason that's there is there a particular is there one moment in this movie that is the hardest for you to watch because it hits you. So personally yet you know the hardest vote for me that this was split answer is the second story when. Cheryl comes home. And Paula is asking about the money you know and but that's difficult because. Naomi does such a great job you know this is I think it will be a hard thing to watch even if I wasn't related to the character even if she wasn't playing them on. The scene of the third story. The reconciliation between. Naomi into quality between Paula. And sorrow and slash black. The rehab center that's he's the most difficult one for me to watch because it's I think it's the one where I put the most myself independents who. The cactus but this wonderful thing happen where they'll meet monthly and took that it's a good step farther you know. And from there and acting things that that I mean you wish it happened you can know a thing that I wish are remembered better or that I which had gone better. Moments of that scene in particular is the most difficult to watch worked through which it's wrenching but as and his wicked is not bombastic but it's very very true. And it's very very wrong. It has your mother seeing this. She isn't. You know but you know but and she had casting approval. Catherine did not have to approve that would have been stricken. Like me Julia Roberts the plea you know it's like now is not gonna work. Not yet the scene at Obama's is to receive it whose my best friend and the highest compliment anybody could give. On this the homeless succulent issues like the only errors. Course if he would veto this little business what's the position knows exactly my mom is. My mom is working her way. It's watching the film I will say she probably will watch this interview and because you've been watching. All the stuff. But you know she has commander general pace you know that's that's one thing for me to. Create the story in for an in which have liked the character. But I think you know it's in upon me. You know to force animals who know intimately can force them doing that and but I I think she's getting ready getting close to having them watch him. While you're. Your at this point now where everything it's award season. I don't know how you dealing with maybe they're in denial about it probably good at something but it happens in. How did you react last year we about Oscar so why. How did you as today black man fit. What is your it was interesting I did realize that the time had a movie that with a post production. And I'm like okay this is adjusting you know and that I looked around and realize. They're actually a lot of homes that were in the production of post production. That we're gonna slip into the slip stream the reaction to hospice a life. We drill down into what she realizes these rooms and aren't a reaction of the being rained. And as a reaction or response but. And we began three years ago that we like fences and six years ago and creed color you to the loving it so many. Of these films and then we'll what I think about it is. All these films rolls from you know probably the same impulse which was. Here's a story that accidental or boards that isn't being heard do. The that the making of these films as a response to lack you know not be Al cried you know or the incidence that that. Puts it into the public consciousness. And is glad that this year you know we have so many films we strong films and very diverse films in his interest and talk about diversity. As being you know now we have these fools me but people caloric people of color within those films. The films themselves very distinct human fences and later nothing new life and if there's room for both. You know sleeping with a loving it way. Some schools good to be at this place where we can talk about this you know the response to hospice away. But we should be talking about is. Only god all of these films here you know and the role he's very very distinct voices but this whole tapestry. You know of human experience not a good feeling in a good time. Now I'm a unit doesn't go away unity hope and that'll be the test yet whether you hope that next year will be the same thing animals they just as far as this year goes. You know really proud to be to be apartments. When you're growing up what movies with the once that he year. You're growing up I didn't really watch a lot of movies you are we're watching dial it is Christmas. That's fifty people die hard that is what you see Islamic terror and an amazing film that is it okay. Watching die hard and then like every kid I watched or story didn't like him but 1000 film school. I fell in to a foreign films arose really really love the French new wave. And the Asian way you know breathless but ours on the first being struck by. Turkey expressed by award Hawaiian. In the move to level so the coast. Die hard meets film school meets European cinema somehow we get to see moonlight. That's the really good thing it the wanna make like the in the art house romance featuring Jill McLane stranded. I want to see that with a few I mean I think if you feel that. That there's a universe you can I don't know how you followed. I don't know what you do with it except to say. I'm gonna follow what mines. Exactly yeah and just do it will keep doing that. And it's been great to have you here you haven't been on the show before now but. Yeah power when it always and unsolved but in a little piece of the songs so get ready buried there has to be something that was always in your in Miami growing up. That he will be listening to. And what can you give us a. Little piece we don't listen to a lot of soul music and my brother would go for the free market. This is back when your you didn't have CDs a mix tapes and these guys would take vitals. New report notes cassette. There will make these mixes and all these old soul songs and I think it's wide that third chapter when the curtain walked diner. It looks from partial score looks from hip hop. What's wrong in his old Eagles took a lot of older buildings Alter ego the I'll be sold sold them and that the song we're Barbara Lewis while stranger. I was very important the film is very important script. That's listened to and here Monday both of my childhood. And my president to give me in little piece of. Addressing it yes you don't have to be nobody. Everybody on the show there and I think but they did not immediately Dillard's tie. Touch him play I can save or is it just goes it's in the commodity loan. Cuba Cuba Cuba. Everybody do it should. And more more alike than. But I'll the lies she says. Please don't leave me like you did before because this through news. Although it simply the mind. It is such a beautiful soul very simple and you know is from there when people in most recordings in track to losing this. Her versions justly. You can feel it. Rated next. Well that's just what am so very thank you being here appreciate you can have many more popping and podshows over the that's just the way it. Group office.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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