Spirit Awards: ‘Moonlight’ Wins Best Feature Film Award

moonlight Movie
Courtesy of A24

Barry Jenkins’ coming-of-age drama “Moonlight” won the best feature award at the Spirit Awards on Saturday. The film dominated as it won six awards total including prizes for director and screenplay.

“Moonlight” won the feature award over “American Honey,” “Chronic,” “Jackie” and “Manchester by the Sea.” The trophy went to producers Dede Gardner, Jeremy Kleiner and Adele Romanski.

Casey Affleck won best actor for his role in “Manchester by the Sea” and Isabelle Huppert took the best actress trophy for her role in Paul Verhoeven’s thriller “Elle.”

Affleck blasted President Donald Trump without naming him in his acceptance, saying, “The policies of this administration are abhorrent and will not last.”

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Huppert gave strong support to the role of independent film, saying, “Good cinema is independent — it’s independence that makes art win.”

“Moonlight’s” Joi McMillon and Nat Sanders won the award for editing, and James Laxton won for cinematography. “Thank you for existing on this planet,” said Laxton to Jenkins, who directed the movie.

Jenkins based the script — set in Miami in three chapters of a young man’s life — on Tarell Alvin McCraney’s play “In Moonlight All Black Boys Look Blue.” McCraney received story credit on Jenkins’ script.

Jenkins, in accepting the director award, thanked the cast and crew for enduring Miami’s heat and a compressed schedule — noting that the film was shot in 25 days for $1.5 million.

When asked about the current political climate backstage, Jenkins said, “I feel terrible, there’s no other way to describe it.” He added, “I’m pissed off, as Casey [Affleck] said he was pissed off, and I’m pretty sure a majority of the room was pissed off.”

Jenkins even alluded that his film, made while Barack Obama was in the White House, may not have happened in the current climate. “We made this movie under a different administration in what felt like a safe space… the space to make movies is not so safe anymore,” he said.

The love for “Moonlight” was consistent throughout the afternoon including a moment when Kerry Washington presented the Robert Altman award to the cast. “Oh, dear lord, I love this movie,” she said. The audience then gave the “Moonlight” cast an extended standing ovation.

Since it received the Altman award, the “Moonlight” cast was not eligible for the individual acting awards.

Ezra Edelman’s “O.J.: Made in America” won the best documentary award. “O.J.: Made in America” also won at the DGA and PGA and the International Documentary Assn. and is up for the Academy Award in that category. It premiered at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival and qualified for the Oscars with a brief theatrical run in Los Angeles and New York before rolling out as a five-part miniseries on ABC and ESPN as part of the latter’s “30 for 30” series.

When asked backstage if the O.J. Simpson story is over, Edelman said, “I don’t profess to be inside his head… but the story is not completely over — that’s my gut feeling.”

Ben Foster won for best supporting actor for his role as a desperate bank robber in the Texas-set Western “Hell or High Water.”

“This is why we do what we do,” a moved Foster said in his acceptance. “This is a room full of architects and poets.”

Molly Shannon won the supporting actress award for “Other People,” Chris Kelly’s semi-autobiographical comedy drama about the impact of a mother dying of cancer. “I want to dedicate this award to all the mothers who would go to the ends of the earth for their families,” she said. Shannon got a huge laugh by concluding with a reference to her Mary Katherine Gallagher character from “Saturday Night Live” saying, “I really feel like a superstar!”

Robert Eggers took two trophies for best first feature and best first screenplay award for horror-thriller “The Witch,” set in the 17th Century Puritan era in Massachusetts. He thanked the producers, the cast and the Puritans for leaving behind an extensive written record.

German comedy-drama “Toni Erdmann” won the best international film with director-writer Maren Ade accepting. “I’m proud to stand here as a female director,” she said.

Korean gay-immigrant drama “Spa Night” won the John Cassavetes Award for films made for $500,000 or less. “Thanks to my parents for understanding that their gay Korean-American son is their son,” said director-writer Andrew Ahn.

Comedians Nick Kroll and John Mulaney of “Oh, Hello” fame co-hosted the awards with plenty of pointed political commentary as Kroll declared, “Steve Bannon — so hot!” early on.

“Donald Trump, you have a lot in common with Robert Durst,” Mulaney said, referring to “The Jinx” subject. “Both from New York real estate empires. Yet somehow Durst is more likable”

A much-feared rain failed to materialize with the sun shining brightly. Colin Hanks opened the ceremonies by presenting the editing award.

The Spirit Awards are voted on by members of Film Independent and require that the films be produced in the U.S. for less than $20 million — excluding “La La Land,” “Fences” and “Hidden Figures.”  “Spotlight,” “Birdman” and “12 Years a Slave” won both the Spirit Award and the Oscar best picture trophies, as did “The Artist.”

The full list of nominees is listed below. The winners will be noted in bold as they are announced.

Best Feature
“American Honey”
“Chronic”
“Jackie”
“Manchester by the Sea”
“Moonlight”

Best Director
Andrea Arnold (“American Honey”)
Barry Jenkins (“Moonlight”)
Pablo Larrain (“Jackie”)
Jeff Nichols (“Loving”)
Kelly Reichardt (“Certain Women”)

Best First Feature
“The Childhood of a Leader”
“The Fits”
“Other People”
“Swiss Army Man”
“The Witch”

Best Male Lead
Casey Affleck (“Manchester by the Sea”)
David Harewood (“Free in Deed”)
Viggo Mortensen (“Captain Fantastic”)
Jesse Plemons (“Other People”)
Tim Roth (“Chronic”)

Best Female Lead
Annette Bening (“20th Century Women”)
Isabelle Huppert (“Elle”)
Sasha Lane (“American Honey”)
Ruth Negga (“Loving”)
Natalie Portman (“Jackie”)

Best Supporting Male
Ralph Fiennes (“A Bigger Splash”)
Ben Foster (“Hell or High Water”)
Lucas Hedges (“Manchester by the Sea”)
Shia LaBeouf (“American Honey”)
Craig Robinson (“Morris from America”)

Best Supporting Female
Edwina Findley (“Free in Deed”)
Paulina Garcia (“Little Men”)
Lily Gladstone (“Certain Women”)
Riley Keough (“American Honey”)
Molly Shannon (“Other People”)

Best Screenplay
“Hell or High Water”
“Little Men”
“Manchester by the Sea”
“Moonlight”
“20th Century Women”

Best First Screenplay
“Barry”
“Christine”
“Jean of the Joneses”
“Other People”
“The Witch”

Best International Film
“Aquarius”
“Chevalier”
“My Golden Days”
“Toni Erdmann”
“Under the Shadow”

Best Documentary Feature
“13th”
“Cameraperson”
“I Am Not Your Negro”
“O.J.: Made in America”
“Sonita”
“Under the Sun”

Best Cinematography
“American Honey”
“Childhood”
“Free in Deed”
“Eyes of My Mother”
“Moonlight”

Best Editing
“Hell or High Water”
“Jackie”
“Manchester by the Sea”
“Moonlight”
“Swiss Army Man”

John Cassavetes Award
“Free in Deed”
“Hunter Gatherer”
“Lovesong”
“Nakom”
“Spa Night”

Robert Altman Award
“Moonlight”

Piaget Producers Award
Lisa Kjerulff
Jordana Mollick
Melody C. Roscher
Craig Shilowich

Truer Than Fiction Award
Kristi Jacobson (“Solitary”)
Sara Jordeno (“Kiki”)
Nanfu Wang (“Holligan Sparrow”)

Someone to Watch Award
Andrew Ahn (“Spa Night”)
Claire Carre (“Embers”)
Anna Rose Holmer (“The Fits”)
Ingrid Jungermann (“Women Who Kill”)

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