Academy Award winning director Barry Jenkins inspires at University of Redlands event

Barry Jenkins answers questions from the crowd at Orton Center at the University of Redlands on February 26, 2019. (MIA ARANDA/ La Plaza Photo)


For director Barry Jenkins, February 26, 2017 would become a significant night in his career that he would never forget. The competition was fierce for best picture that year with distinguished films such as Manchester by the Sea, La La Land, Moonlight, and Hidden Figures. When the best picture award was to finally be announced, Warren Beatty looked hesitantly at the envelope for a few seconds until Faye Dunawaye presented the award to La La Land. While the cast of La La Land gave their thank-you speeches, the audience began to anticipate something wrong when a backstage worker announced that there had been a mistake causing Moonlight to win. Jenkins told his audience at the University  of Redlands that for 40 minutes he wondered if his win was legitimate, “it wasn’t until I saw that card that I was like, ‘You know what, no, we did win Best Picture.’ But I won’t ever forget those 40 minutes.”

Award-winning director and writer of the films “Moonlight” and “If Beale Street Could Talk,” Barry Jenkins, hosted a Q & A session at the Orton Center at the University of Redlands on the evening of February 26.

Vice president of the U of R associated students Liran Koropitzer introduced Jenkins by describing how he “has earned eight Academy Award nominations, ten broadcasts, critics choice award nominations, six Golden Globe Nominations, and four BAFTA nominations.”

For the first half of the night, Jennifer Tilton, professor of race and ethnic studies, interviewed Jenkins with questions that some of her students helped generate.

Throughout the night, Jenkins had a very lively spirit as he answered everyone’s questions. He was motivational and would frequently joke with the crowd.

Below are seven memorable quotes from the evening spoken by Jenkins.

1. “I never go from a to b to c to z. That’s just not how my brain works.

2. “I think when you think of progress as a direction, and not a destination, then you have true progress, which needs to be continual and unfortunately gradual. So I do think as much amazing change as there has been, I was at the Academy Awards just now and there wasn’t a single woman nominated for best director and yet I can name at least three films made by women, that were, I’ll say this to be fair, that were as good as anything anybody else made in the world today. — I don’t want to scare nobody.”

3. “I was in Tallahassee, Florida in my little film school but I felt they way you feel and what I had to realize was one, two my experience was an asset and the idea that I didn’t feel I fit into the spaces was a plus and not a minus. But also too, in the world that we live in you don’t have to look far for inspiration, you just don’t. If you want to surround yourself in work that you feel a part of you maybe can’t do it right here, you know, in Redlands, but the internet is a very vast and wide thing.”

4. “Can they be best told by people who have had those experiences? Probably. I can’t say definitively, you know, as a straight man who made a movie about a gay main character that resonated with people. . . I think what its about is, again, respect and diligence.”

5. “I grew up just like the kid in Moonlight. I had never held a camera. Didn’t know what cameras did. It was much more difficult to make a movie back then because you couldn’t see what you were doing. It literally took math and chemistry to understand how the image was going to be reflected when the footage came back from the lab and I literally had to ask myself, can I not do this because I’m Black and I’m poor and my mom’s addicted to crack cocaine, or do I just not have the tools, the tools that these kids have because they grew up in the suburbs with home cameras.”

6. “There’s nothing written on an Oscar when you get it. It’s just a blank Oscar. So this whole thing with the mix up, I get up one stage and I have the Oscar and they’re like ‘Oh, there’s been a mistake, bla bla bla.’ I go back stage. It took like 40 minutes for Warren Beatty to find me and show me the envelope. And until that moment, the imposter syndrome was like, ‘Is this real?’ Like, ‘Have I won Best Picture?’ Now all these demons in the back of my head. Someone like me doesn’t win Best Picture. For 40 minutes, they’re there.”

7. “Find people you could vibe with, you could grow with…Find people you click with. . . Homeboy’s not famous, he can’t help me? . . . Y’all get famous together.”

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