A Sunday Times critic called this film too black and too gay. It just won Best Picture at the Oscars

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Sunday Times film critic Camilla Long has been forced to eat her words after the film she called too black and too gay won the Best Picture award at the Oscars. Long was accused of racism for her review of the film Moonlight. A review which was a masterclass in ignorance. The film sets out to document the plight of LGBT black people, and was denounced by a white woman of privilege because it is too black and too gay. The irony.

The review

In her review, Long writes:

The received wisdom on Moonlight, a film about gay love in the black ghetto, is that it is “necessary” and “important”. It is an “urgent” and “relevant” examination of forbidden attraction in a world, “the streets”, that is largely hostile to gay men.

Only, relevant to whom? Certainly not the audience. Most will be straight, white, middle class. Nor is it particularly “urgent”: the story has been told countless times, against countless backdrops.

This is in stark contrast to The Guardian’s veteran film critic Mark Kermode, who not only gave the film 5 stars, but wrote:

Lending heartfelt voice to characters who have previously been silenced or sidelined, Moonlight is an astonishingly accomplished work – rich, sensuous and tactile, by turns heartbreaking and uplifting. The first time I saw it I swooned; the second time I cried like a baby. I can’t wait to see it again.

I doubt that I will see a better film than Moonlight this year.

Read on...

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So why was Camilla Long unable to connect with the film?

The reaction

Long couldn’t connect with Moonlight, because she couldn’t see herself reflected in the film. We know this because of her past form on reviews.

Long judged Moonlight over originality of plot. Let’s be honest, most would struggle to name another film charting the lived experience of poor, black, gay Americans. By comparison, it wouldn’t take much to rattle off a list of romantic musicals with white lead actors. Yet Long wrote a glowing review of Caucasian sing-along La La Land. Some felt the need to make this point direct to Long.




The moment that La La Land was announced to have won Best Picture in error, before the gong was given to the real winner Moonlight, must have been extra painful for Long.

Others wanted to take a moment to call out Long’s credentials.


And they didn’t stop there.

Repeat Offender

This isn’t the first time, and we doubt the last, that Long has found it impossible to understand a film which doesn’t map directly to her ethnic and class background. She described Ken Loach’s Palme d’Or winning film I, Daniel Blake as “a povvo safari for middle-class do-gooders”. Unable to believe anyone could find themselves living the impoverished existence of Daniel Blake and other characters in the film, Long wrote:

Katie (Hayley Squires) is a single mother from London whom Dan meets in the benefits office. She has mysteriously been relocated to Newcastle with her children. Even by the horrifying lows of the system, it seems astonishing that she has been sent this far. But we must believe that it happened — it’s real research! — just as we must believe Daniel wouldn’t at any point think to simply telephone his doctor or remotely entertain the idea of learning about computers. It constantly hectors the viewer. But it never feels quite genuine.

Long found the film so hard to believe because she had literally no idea that people live like this in Britain. But they do. A 2015 report by The Independent found that more than 50,000 families had been shipped out of London by local councils in the previous three years, due to benefit cuts and soaring rents. That’s 500 families a week. The report states that these families were moved “to locations including Manchester, Bradford, Hastings, Pembrokeshire, Dover and Plymouth”.

So, very real. In fact, endemic. But for Long, totally unbelievable and “cherry-picked”.

And now, Camilla Long is again wearing her ignorance in public like a badge of honour.

Long needs to treat this moment as a life lesson. She has a golden opportunity for a bit of earnest self-reflection, to spot how her privilege is manifesting as ignorance. But judging by her initial reaction to criticism, we wouldn’t advise you to get your hopes up.

Featured image via Twitter/IMDB

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