SXSW 2018: Recap of Film Keynote Barry Jenkins

Barry Jenkins, director of 2016 Best Picture winner “Moonlight,” was one of the film keynotes at this year’s SXSW Conference and Festivals. He opened his speech on Sunday morning by joking about the Daylight Saving time change that had happened overnight, probably saying what most people in the room were thinking: “I woke up and thought I had four hours to get ready, and it turned out I had about 90 seconds!”

Jenkins read the speech he would have liked to have given the night that “Moonlight” won the top honor at the Academy Awards – he was understandably flustered at the time – and the whole room responded warmly to his heartfelt words. Throughout the hour, he spoke on his experiences growing up black and poor in Miami, and never seeing people like him getting the kinds of opportunities that he would someday have. While he spoke of struggles, both personal and professional, the majority of his time was spent talking about his positive and affirming experiences. Those included attending the exclusive film school at Florida State University, getting a job at Harpo Studios (part of Oprah’s production company) shortly after graduating from the film program, and making films with colleagues who became friends. “Moonlight” is a serious and sometimes somber film, but Jenkins is full of energy and showed off his sense of humor too.

His speech was also somewhat of a love letter to SXSW, which is where he showed his first feature film, “Medicine for Melancholy,” in 2008. Even then, he knew that the Austin-based film festival was the best place to show his movie, a place where the audience would be receptive. He was grateful to return to the festival this year as a film keynote and an Oscar winner.

Jenkins told personal stories and made sure to give tips to young people, filmmaker hopefuls and those who are marginalized within their communities, even before the audience Q & A portion. His speech was engaging, fun and inspirational; he got a standing ovation from the audience when he finished. Check out some more of our tweets from the hour below.

Make sure to stay tuned for more recaps and exclusive interviews and reviews from SXSW 2018! 

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