As Hollywood prepares for its biggest night of the season, Oscar-winning director Barry Jenkins is still haunted by how last year turned out.
Jenkins, who is one of just four Black directors to ever be nominated for Best Director, experienced a rollercoaster of emotions when his film, Moonlight, took home the top prize at the 2017 Academy Awards, but only after La La Land was mistakenly named the winner.
In a discussion with fellow Black Best Director nominees — John Singleton, Lee Daniels, and Jordan Peele — Jenkins said the flub made him question if his film was really the clear winner.
“I didn’t make Moonlight for the awards conversation, and when it ended up there, I was shocked the whole way. I kept waiting for the other shoe to drop. And then with how things ultimately went in the end [with the mistaken announcement that La La Land had won best picture], because of how loud it was and all of that other stuff, I’ve never been as distraught as I was at the Vanity Fair party after the Oscars,” he explained.
Even though Moonlight had won the Oscars’ crowning prize, Jenkins said he couldn’t fully celebrate it. “I wasn’t sure that thing was mine or who it belonged to because of how everything happened. And it made 2017 a very long year,” he admitted.
Before the mistake was corrected and Moonlight was named Best Picture, Jenkins said he had come to terms with the loss because he knew that his career would be just fine.
“We went and made Beale Street [based on the James Baldwin novel], and we’re making Underground Railroad at Amazon. Those were things that were going to happen whether we lost or won,” he explained. “And for two minutes, we lost. And in those two minutes, I was still self-satisfied because I knew I’m going to go off and do these things, you know? Winning or losing is not gonna take any of those things off the table.”
While he knew he’d be fine, Jenkins admitted that the confusion at the end of last year’s Academy Awards ceremony did dampen his enjoyment of what should have been an exciting moment.
“It’s bittersweet because when that switch happened, I didn’t enjoy it,” he said. Down, “And I’m never going to get the opportunity to enjoy that — because even if it happens again, it won’t be the same. Moonlight was a very special film for me.”