Written by | Ray Cornelius 

The stars of Barry Jenkins‘ critically acclaimed independent film “Moonlight” attended a private screening Monday night in Atlanta, GA. The event took place at the Regal Atlantic Station and was presented by Gil Robertson and the African American Film Critics Association (AAFCA). Actors Naomie Harris, Janelle Monáe and Trevante Rhodes were all smiles as they walked the red carpet and mingled with guests during a pre-screening reception.

img_2429“Moonlight” is a three-part narrative spanning the childhood, adolescence and adulthood of an African-American man named Chiron, who survives Miami’s drug-plagued inner city, finding love in unexpected places and the possibility of change within himself. The film is based on Tarrell Alvin McCraney‘s play “In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue,” and chronicles his real-life experiences as a poor, black, gay boy growing up in the slums of Miami during the early 80s. “Moonlight” also stars Alex R. Hibbert, Ashton Sanders, Mahershala Ali and Jharrel Jerome.

Following the screening was a brief Q&A session moderated by Robertson and featuring Jenkins along with the cast and NYU Professor Frank Roberts. It was revealed during the discussion that Harris initially turned down the role of “Paula,” the crack addicted mother of “Chiron,” because she didn’t want to feed into the negative stereotype of Black women. However, when it was revealed to her by Jenkins that she would be was playing a combination of his mother and McCraney’s mother, she quickly changed her mind and accepted the role.

Monae, who is making her film debut and will also star in “Hidden Figures,” admitted during the Q&A that she was “nervous as hell” on the first day of shooting. However, she was able to collect herself when she realized that the film was much bigger than her.  She also felt it was her responsibility to help those who may have felt like an outsider at some point in their lives.

Other special invited guests to the screening included filmmaker Deborah Riley Draper, Clark Atlanta University’s Dr. Daniel Black, “If Loving You is Wrong” star Joel Rush, singer Rahbi and a host of others.

See more photos below:


Gil Robertson


Dr. Daniel Black 


Singer Rahbi 


If Loving You is Wrong’s Joel Rush 


Bishop O.C. Allen and his husband Rashad Burgess


Filmmaker Deborah Riley Draper 


Gil Robertson with Barry Jenkins and the “Moonlight” cast


Naomie Harris 


Trevante Rhodes


Janelle Monáe


Trevante Rhodes and Joel Rush


Barry Jenkins and Naomie Harris 


Janelle Monáe

img_2537Barry Jenkins 


Naomie Harris with Trevante Rhodes

“Moonlight’ opens in theaters October 21!

Photo Credits: RayCornelius.com