How ‘Moonlight’ Uses Cinematography to Wreck Us Emotionally

This post is by Jo Light from No Film School

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How do camera placement, lighting, and eyeline all cooperate to create emotion in a movie?

There might not be a better film to explore these multiple elements than Oscar-winning drama, Moonlight.

In this video from TIFF Originals, director of photography James Laxton takes viewers through a single scene in the movie, specifically the moment where adult Chiron (Trevante Rhodes) reunites with Kevin (AndrĂ© Holland). Laxton explains the choices made to convey the scene’s tone and shares some behind-the-scenes details.

Watch the clip below.


From the opening of the scene, as Chiron approaches the diner, lighting is at play. Laxton placed lights within a tree to cast dappled shadows on the character as he walked beneath, creating entirely new visual interest from the very first second.

Outside the diner, the bulbs were changed to give a more blue hue. Inside, much of the lighting is practical and natural, coming from golden, warm hanging lamps and overhead lighting.

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