Pretty much nothing at this year’s Academy Awards could top the bizarre, surreal moment of the 2017 ceremony, when a surprise gaffe led to La La Land being incorrectly declared the Best Picture winner by Warren Beatty. Of course, in the whirlwind of the confusing moments that followed, the cast of the actual winner, Moonlight, barely had time to process it all on stage, and director Barry Jenkins was too shocked to read his speech aloud.
A couple of days later, Jenkins shared the words he would’ve said, but until his keynote address given at the South by Southwest Festival in Austin on Sunday morning, he had never read the speech aloud. You can watch it above (sans the first few seconds), and read the full text below.
Tarell [Alvin McCraney] and I are Chiron. We are that boy. And when you watch Moonlight, you don’t assume a boy who grew up how and where we did would grow up and make a piece of art that wins an Academy Award. I’ve said that a lot, and what I’ve had to admit is that I placed those limitations on myself, I denied myself that dream. Not you, not anyone else — me. And so, to anyone watching this who sees themselves in us, let this be a symbol, a reflection that leads you to love yourself. Because doing so may be the difference between dreaming at all and, somehow through the Academy’s grace, realizing dreams you never allowed yourself to have. Much love.
Toward the end of the keynote address, Jenkins elaborated on what he meant when he wrote, “I placed those limitations on myself, I denied myself that dream.” He recalled returning to his hometown to shoot Moonlight, a community that is ignored by the government for its basic needs, such as the replacement of broken street lights. While shooting there, the lights from the production allowed the kids in the neighborhood, who aren’t usually able to play outside at night to do so, and they would often slow down the shoot. Yet after filming the scene in which Kevin drops Chiron following their intimate moment at the beach, Jenkins returned to the video village, the place where production monitors are set up on set. He explained:
I turn and look back at one point, and I see all these kids who normally are running through my shot, they’re sitting at video village. They’re literally sitting in our chairs … I’ve said that a lot, and what I’ve had to admit is that I placed those limitations on myself, I denied myself that dream. I never saw it, and when I looked back at those kids, sitting in my chair … watching me make this film that’s gonna go on to win Best Picture, I see they see in me the dream I never allowed myself to have. It floored me, it floored me. And if I cried that night, it wasn’t because we won Best Picture. I cried because I realized I denied myself that dream for so long, I didn’t even recognize it when, through the help of my friends, I was able to give that dream to someone else.