Professional Studies and Fine Arts

Professional Studies and Fine Arts

More than a Movie: JMS presents Academy Award-Winning film “Moonlight”

Free screening is the second in the School of Journalism and Media Studies Screening Circle event series

More than a Movie: JMS presents Academy Award-Winning film “Moonlight”


by Baylee Akins and Jensen Bell

October 19, 2021

Events involving race, sexuality, class and other social issues over the past few years have further amplified the call for macro and microscopic change of many traditional processes, and the world of academia is no exception.

The School of Journalism and Media Studies (JMS) at San Diego State University (SDSU) seeks to answer this call, most notably with the idea that something as a simple book club proposal can turn into an initiative taking on a life of its own. The Screening Circle is a forum for the critical and civil exchange of ideas.

Conceptualized by the JMS Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) committee, the Screening Circle was brought to life through a collaboration between Dr. Temple Northup, director of the School of JMS; JMS professor Dr. Kaye Sweetser, APR+M, Fellow PRSA; Gabe Adibe, JMS alumnus class of 2021; and JMS students in Dr. Sweetser’s 585 capstone course in spring 2021.

As storytellers, JMS understands how sharing stories can be a conduit for change. It’s with this in mind that the Screening Circle aims to amplify voices of traditionally marginalized communities; encourage participants to engage in respectful and thought-provoking conversations about race, class, sexuality, and social issues; and motivate allies to act against the horrors of racism, classism, and homophobia.

At Screening Circle events, participants can expect to view a culturally relevant film or tv show that highlights issues of race, class, sexuality, or social issues. The collective viewing is then followed by an enriching discussion or academic component led by JMS faculty, and/or JMS undergraduate or graduate students.

“The topics covered are not easy to discuss, but those difficult moments are when voices are heard and changes are made,” said Dr. Northup. “Our goal is open dialogue about the crisis we’re facing right now and empowering our students to understand their roles as storytellers in the media. We want our students to understand how all of them are catalysts for changing race and identity representation in the media.”

The focus of the second Screening Circle is the Academy Award-Winning film “Moonlight,” directed by Barry Jenkins. The free screening will be held in-person at SDSU and is accessible to all students, faculty and staff who want to join the conversation. “Moonlight” is a coming-of-age film that chronicles the life of a young black man from childhood to adulthood as he struggles to find his place in the world while growing up in a rough neighborhood of Miami. Themes in this film explore the intersection of Black queer masculinity, and tell a story that is not frequently seen in mainstream media, making it the ideal film to start a discussion about the larger implications of representation in media.

“Intersectional representation in the media is extremely important for identity negotiation in traditionally marginalized communities,” said Dr. Nate Rodriguez, associate professor of Digital Media Studies in JMS. “The movie ‘Moonlight’ has been a staple in my courses and helps students better understand that identities are not monolithic, but rather overlap and intersect; and with that comes compounded oppressions and unique lived experiences. The Screening Circle provides a space and a media artifact that celebrates as much as it examines Black queer masculinities and underrepresented identities.”

The JMS media studies program challenges students to analyze different types of media for diversity, equity and inclusion markers, training them to think critically about representation in media. However, students in other majors may not recognize these themes as readily. While showing students media outside of the classroom that portrays varying types of representation is important in and of itself, JMS understands the value in discussion and shared interpretation to encourage change. A curriculum and supplemental modules for each Screening Circle event have been created that allow professors outside JMS to incorporate the series into their own classes and offer course credit for participating students. Following the screening of “Moonlight,” students will read and watch additional academic content on intersectionality, Quare Theory, and Black masculinity and then have the opportunity to write a reflection on the film integrating their newfound knowledge.

As the Screening Circle gains momentum approaching its second screening, JMS hopes the series will continue to spark thought-provoking discussions on the important themes in films and shows like “Moonlight.”

The free film screening of “Moonlight” will be held at the Tula Community Center at SDSU on Thursday, Oct. 21, at 6 p.m. To RSVP, click here.

To learn more about the intersectional representation and themes explored in “Moonlight,” visit the website Dr. Rodriguez created for this Screening Circle here.

If you are unsure if your SDSU course is offering extra credit for participating, please ask your instructor or reach out to Baylee Akins at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

The content within this article has been edited by Lizbeth Persons.

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