Academy Award-winning Barry Jenkins took the stage as a keynote speaker and charmed the audience on Day 3 of SXSW. He shared very personal stories about his journey to becoming the acclaimed director he is today. From growing up with a mother addicted to crack cocaine, to his undying adoration of Die Hard, to making his awards season opus Moonlight, Jenkins’ experience has sculpted his career as a storyteller and filmmaker. But before he shared his inspiring stories and truth, he did something he has never done before: shared his Oscars acceptance speech that he would’ve read after winning Best Picture for Moonlight.
Last year’s Academy Award snafu has cemented itself as one of the most enduring moments in the ceremony’s history. After Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway mistakenly read La La Land as the winner, it may have been a meme-worthy, clutch-your-pearls moment worthy of headline-making clickbait. But it ultimately eclipsed Jenkins’ win, denying the Moonlight team its moment of glory.
Having premiered his first feature Medicine for Melancholy at SXSW 10 years ago, there was something poetically symmetrical about him sharing this speech. He calls the fest “the birth of Barry Jenkins the filmmaker.” He walked out on stage and after admitting he was still reeling from losing an hour of sleep to Daylight Savings Time, said he wanted to read something to the audience — without revealing that it was his Oscars acceptance speech. Beginning with a shout-out to Tarell McCraney, whose play formed the basis for Jenkins’ film, here’s what he read:
Tarell 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 — certainly don’t think he would grow up to win Best Picture. 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.