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The summer of 2020 was an earthquake of challenges, change and hopeful rebellion, and so, in a way, "Moon Students" is a film about youthful rebels. Hopefully, though, it is not the kind with which we are most familiar. In the wake of George Floyd's tragic death, I saw many young underdogs struggling, however imperfectly, to be heard. I empathize with such underdogs, those embattled and marginalized citizens who must disentangle themselves from tough circumstances, then find enough courage to speak up and out. I wrote "Moon Students" to capture their struggle to be heard. Simply put, it is just damn hard to coax a society to change its ways of thinking. It can literally be like trying to yell from the moon down to the earth in order to be heard. So, yes, this is a story of underdogs and marginalized rebels who must fight to be heard by the culture at large, but there will be no switchblades or guns. Hopefully, there will simply be fully developed human beings who happen to be young. My goal is to avoid the usual tropes in favor of more elemental emotional truths. There are no rebels without causes, but the pathos will be ever-present nonetheless because speaking truth to power is an arduous business, especially if you're a person of color. Sometimes though, when it is done with courage and hope, a fresh, more inclusive reality is the reward, one in which we can all share.
-- Daniel Holland
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"Moon Students" was inspired by an old poem and contemporary tragedy. "Let America Be America Again" is the old poem. Written by Langston Hughes in 1935 on a reflective train ride from New York City to Ohio during the Great Depression, it is a brilliant work that embodies his disillusionment with the American Dream and suggests that this country has failed its people of color. And it is a work that I thought of often in the days after George Floyd's tragic death and the protests that followed. Though Floyd was literally silenced as the nation looked on, his tragedy allowed a pent-up cry for justice to finally sound across the world. The idea that such an awful event was the much-needed flash point for an outburst of freedom of expression really intrigues me. And it relates back to Hughes again because, for me, the most intriguing aspect of his poem is its use of point-of-view or perspective and the way its marginalized characters seek to gain entrance to the American dialogue and the American Dream--notions that are also central to "Moon Students" mission as well.
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