×

‘Moonlight’ Sweeps the Gotham Awards, Winning Best Film

In a formidable sweep, and perhaps a sign of things to come this awards season, “Moonlight” won best feature at the 26th annual Gotham Independent Awards on Monday. It was a big night for the coming-of-age story directed by Barry Jenkins, which landed four prizes, including best screenplay, best ensemble, and the audience award.

“I started writing things down, because I realized I was forgetting people,” said Jenkins, on his last of many trips to the podium. He thanked his cast, his third-grade English teacher (“the first person who told me my story was worth telling”) and A24, the distributor behind the buzzy indie film.

While the Gotham Awards don’t necessarily overlap with the Oscars, the ceremony held at Cipriani Wall Street has predicted best picture at the Academy Awards for the last two years. At the least, the Gothams — the first stop on the long and winding road of awards season — will offer a boost of momentum for “Moonlight” as Oscar voters enter the holiday season.

Isabelle Huppert picked up best actress for her performance in “Elle.” “I’m breathless. I’m speechless,” a visibly startled Huppert said as she took the stage. “I didn’t expect that to happen, I promise. They told me it’s an American award: ‘You’re French, and you’ll never get it.'” Huppert beat out favorites like Natalie Portman (“Jackie”) and Annette Bening (“20th Century Women”) for the prize, for her portrait of a sexual assault survivor in the revenge thriller.

Casey Affleck got best actor for playing a lonely janitor in “Manchester by the Sea.” “There’s no acting award that doesn’t half belong to the director and the writer,” said Affleck, who hadn’t prepared a speech. “Both of those people are Kenneth Lonergan.”

The show kicked off with emcee Keegan-Michael Key hitting a pointed political note. Key opened the night by pretending that he had missed the election, armed with a pre-written speech with Hillary Clinton as the next president of the United States. Then he got the news about Donald Trump’s victory. “Thank God he’s not going to live here,” Key said to light laughter. (“Boo. Not funny. Sorry Keegan,” hissed a high-profile actress in attendance.)

“The films nominated tonight show us so much about our lives and our world,” said Joana Vicente, the executive director of the Independent Filmmaking Project, which hosts the event. She noted that IFP has a history of supporting diversity in the filmmaking industry. This year’s Gotham Awards nominated 10 women directors and five directors of color.

Jenkins received the best screenplay prize for “Moonlight,” a story about a young African-American man told through a series of three vignettes. “I was nominated for breakthrough director in 2008 and I didn’t make a film between now and then,” Jenkins said of his previous independent film “Medicine for Melancholy.”

The cast of “Moonlight,” led by Mahershala Ali, received the special jury prize for best ensemble. “I can confidently speak for all of us when I say we are forever changed” as a result of starring in the movie, Ali said.

Cate Blanchett introduced career-tribute honoree Amy Adams, confessing that she had a “huge actor crush” on the star of “Arrival” and “Nocturnal Animals.” Adams said she first came to the Gothams 11 years ago, when she won the breakthrough award for “Junebug,” a movie that launched her on Hollywood’s radar. “I think it’s a testament to the power of independent film that a movie that was made for under $1 million has given the opportunity and privilege to have this amazing career,” she said.

Politics was a theme that bubbled up throughout the night — presenter Damien Lewis joked about vote tallies — but especially when Oliver Stone took the stage for his career tribute. “You can be critical of your government,” said Stone, the director of “Snowden,” who revealed to Variety on the red carpet that he voted for Jill Stein in the election. “We’ve forgotten that. The 1970s can come back if you embody that in your own work.”

The room grew quiet as Stone revealed a conversation he’d had with Edward Snowden about the U.S. government. “The next president, whoever he may be, will have the authority to really close down the system in a way that is much more oppressive than it’s ever been,” Stone said. “The surveillance state, 1984, cyberwarfare, drone warfare is with us.. This is a major issue in our time.”

See a full winners list below.

Best Feature
Moonlight
Barry Jenkins, director; Adele Romanski, Dede Gardner, Jeremy Kleiner, producers (A24)

Best Documentary
O.J.: Made in America
Ezra Edelman, director; Caroline Waterlow, Ezra Edelman, Tamara Rosenberg, Nina Krstic, Deirdre Fenton, Erin Leyden, producers (ESPN Films)

Breakthrough Series – Long Form
Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, Rachel Bloom & Aline Brosh McKenna, creators; Marc Webb, Rachel Bloom, Aline Brosh McKenna, Erin Ehrlich, executive producers (The CW)

Best Actress
Isabelle Huppert in Elle (Sony Pictures Classics)

Best Actor
Casey Affleck in Manchester by the Sea (Amazon Studios)

Bingham Ray Breakthrough Director Award
Trey Edward Shults for Krisha (A24)

Best Screenplay
Moonlight, Story by Tarell Alvin McCraney; Screenplay by Barry Jenkins (A24)

Breakthrough Series – Short Form
Her Story, Jen Richards and Laura Zak, creators (herstoryshow.com)

Breakthrough Actor
Anya Taylor-Joy in The Witch (A24)

Popular on Variety

More Film

  • Editorial use only. No book cover

    Inside the Spider-Man Split: Finger-Pointing and Executive Endgames

    Spider-Man’s neighborhood has been decidedly unfriendly this week. A private and contentious battle over the onscreen future of the beloved Marvel superhero has spilled out into the public square over the past few days. After making nice for two wildly successful films, Sony Pictures, which holds the licensing rights to the Marvel character, will go [...]

  • Variety Announces 10 Actors to Watch

    Variety Announces 10 Actors to Watch for 2019

    Variety has announced its 10 Actors to Watch for 2019, an honor the publication has bestowed since 1998. Past honorees include many future Oscar winners and nominees, such as Mahershala Ali, Timothée Chalamet, Viola Davis, Octavia Spencer, Brie Larson, Lupita Nyong’o and Melissa Leo. This year’s honorees will be feted in the Oct. 27 issue of [...]

  • August Maturo

    Film News Roundup: August Maturo to Star in Horror Movie 'Slapface'

    In today’s film news roundup, August Maturo gets a starring role and “Death of Me” and “Fatale” find homes. CASTING “Girl Meets World” star August Maturo has been cast as the lead character in the upcoming indie horror feature, “Slapface.” Maturo will play a boy who deals with the loss of his mother by creating [...]

  • Dan Trachtenberg

    Tom Holland's 'Uncharted' Movie Loses Director

    Dan Trachtenberg has exited the director’s chair for Sony’s “Uncharted” movie starring Tom Holland, with the studio taking meetings with top filmmakers and production starting early next year. The studio confirmed Trachtenberg’s departure Thursday. It also said Sony-based PlayStation Productions — headed by Asad Qizilbash and Carter Swan — had come on to produce alongside [...]

  • Participant Taps Anikah McLaren, Robert Kessel

    Participant Taps Anikah McLaren, Robert Kessel to Head Film Department

    Participant Media has named industry veterans Anikah McLaren and Robert Kessel as co-heads of the company’s film department with the titles of executive vice president. Both executives will report together to Participant CEO David Linde, who made the announcement Thursday. McLaren joins Participant having most recently served as a production executive for Fox Searchlight Pictures. [...]

  • 'The Son' Review: Bosnian Family Drama

    Sarajevo Film Review: 'The Son'

    It is a mixed blessing to be born in the aftermath of a war. On the one hand, you never have to experience the terror and suffering your parents did; on the other, you grow up with your own personal crises forever made to feel smaller by comparison. That, at least, is the frustration driving [...]

  • Constance Wu and Jennifer Lopez star

    Box Office: Jennifer Lopez 'Hustlers' Heading for $25 Million Launch

    STX Entertainment’s “Hustlers,” a comedic thriller about strip-club employees seeking revenge, is expected to earn $25 million when it opens on Sept. 13, according to early tracking. The movie — starring Jennifer Lopez, Constance Wu, Lili Reinhart, Keke Palmer, Cardi B and Lizzo — will debut alongside Warner Bros.’ “The Goldfinch.” The drama, based on [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content