The 89th Academy Awards ceremony may have ended badly for the producers of “La La Land,” but the unexpected triumph of “Moonlight” in the best picture category added yet another victory for Yale on a night when two of its alumni earned an Oscar each.
Tarell Alvin McCraney DRA ’07, the incoming chair of playwriting at the Yale School of Drama, won an Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay for his role in co-writing the screenplay for “Moonlight” based on his play “In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue.” Ezra Edelman ’96 took home an Oscar for Best Documentary Feature for producing and directing the ESPN series “O.J.: Made in America.”
“This goes out to all those black and brown boys and girls and nongender conforming who don’t see themselves, we’re trying to show you you, and us,” McCraney said in his acceptance speech.
“Moonlight,” which was awarded Best Picture and whose star Mahershala Ali won Best Supporting Actor, was nominated for Oscars in eight categories. A coming-of-age story, “Moonlight” follows the life of Chiron, a gay black man growing up in Miami, as he struggles to come to terms with his surroundings and sexuality.
Barry Jenkins co-wrote the screenplay with McCraney and also took home an Academy Award for his efforts.
McCraney received a 2013 MacArthur Genius Grant and the 2013 Windham-Campbell Prize, among others, and served on the School of Drama’s Board of Advisors until 2016. He begins his three-year term as chair of playwriting on July 1.
Three-time Oscar winner Meryl Streep DRA ’75 was also nominated for Best Actress for her role in “Florence Foster Jenkins” — a record 20th nomination in an acting category for the alumna.
“There were exciting wins for these Yale alumni, and also a richly deserved nomination for alumna Meryl Streep,” Yale School of Drama Dean James Bundy DRA ’95 said in an email to the News. “[Tarell is] an enormous talent, and a consummate professional. His has been an important voice in the field for a decade now, and I am delighted to see him getting such recognition. Like his work, Tarell’s speech was inspiring, reflecting beautifully his vision of telling vital stories about people who may not always see themselves represented in the media, but who deserve to have their cultures and experiences lifted up in all the performing arts.”
At seven and a half hours long, Edelman’s documentary is the longest ever to have been nominated in its category. The documentary details the life and career of former football star O.J. Simpson. Told through a series of interviews and news clips, the film ends with Simpson’s incarceration in 2007 and highlights the tensions between race, ethnicity and celebrity life.
In his acceptance speech, Edelman thanked Ron Goldman and Nicole Brown, the two people Simpson was accused of murdering, as well as their families.
“[This award] is also for others, for the victims of police violence, police brutality, racially motivated violence and criminal injustice,” Edelman said. “This is their story, as well as Ron and Nicole’s.”
Edelman has also directed other documentaries such as “The Curious Case of Curt Flood,” “Magic & Birds: A Courtship of Rivals” and the Emmy Award-winning “Brooklyn Dodgers: Ghosts of Flatbush,” all for HBO Sports. He is the son of children’s rights activist Marian Wright Edelman LAW ’63.
Last year, five Yale alumni were nominated and two, Josh Singer ’94 and Tom McCarthy DRA ’95, took home awards for Best Original Screenplay for their film “Spotlight.”