It’s impossible to find anything less than glowing reviews of Barry JenkinsMoonlight, since it first premiered at Telluride earlier in the month ahead of a berth at TIFF this week. Jenkins’ second film – after Medicine for Melancholy in 2008 – started life as a play; In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue, by Tarell McCraney. A melancholic portrait of life in the unromantic suburbs of Miami, Moonlight follows a black boy named Chiron from childhood to adulthood, as he navigates the crack-riddled streets of his neighborhood and struggles with a complex love for his best friend.

Jenkins told me he was attracted to the narrative because it was one that doesn’t often get explored in cinema. “Tarell and I are both from this very rough, poor place,” he said. “We’ve both come to be these people who create things in arts and letters. But usually, these voices don’t have access to tools like fancy cameras. It’s not that the narrative isn’t out there, but the means to get it out to people is hard to come by.”

The film stars Mahershala Ali, Naomie Harris, Trevante Rhodes, André Holland and Janelle Monáe. “When I read the script it broke my heart,” noted Harris. “It spoke to me, and it has incredible, universal themes about love and identity. It just speaks to everybody’s search for belonging, and that’s why it’s managing to break through people’s sense of identity about race or what have you, and just touch people’s hearts.”

For more from Jenkins and his cast, on the A24 film that has earned a rock-solid place in this year’s awards conversation, check out the video above.