The star-studded audience at the Independent Spirit Awards gave a standing ovation cheer as Moonlight accepted the award for Best Feature on Saturday, the film’s sixth win of the day. With that win, Moonlight, directed by Barry Jenkins and starring Mahershala Ali, Naomie Harris, and Janelle Monáe, broke the record for the most awards won at FISA this decade in their sweep of the evening’s top honors.
Along with the win for Best Feature, Moonlight scored the awards for Best Director, Best Screenplay, Best Cinematography, Best Editing, and the Robert Altman Award, an award given to a director, casting director, and the ensemble cast of a film.
Moonlight is based on the play, In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue by Tarell Alvin McCraney, who accepted the Best Screenplay award alongside Jenkins. In perhaps the most moving speech of the ceremony, McCraney became emotional, telling the audience:
“The scripture says, ‘Count it all joy when you fall into diverse temptations, knowing this, that the trying of your faith will make patience.’ I come from a little neighborhood that little people know, but we fell into diverse temptations, Barry Jenkins and I, and I just want to thank him first and foremost for looking at those temptations, that life, and thinking it was a story worth telling and sharing. Because there are a lot of people, who pushed that script away from their desk. There’s a lot of actors --not at this table, my friend André Holland, Trevante [Rhodes]-- who pushed those scripts away from them saying that it might affect their career in the long run, that they might not be able to get back on stage. But they found the truth in the story we were telling, and they told it, and they told it well.”
During his acceptance speech for the Best Director award, Jenkins thanked the cast and crew for helping him make such a powerful film on a budget of just $1.5 million. Compare this to the $30 million afforded to La La Land, which is considered the main competition for Moonlight at the Oscars on Sunday evening.
While La La Land is still predicted to leave with the top awards at the Academy Awards, Moonlight’s major wins at the ISA affirm the resonance and cultural impact of this very powerful movie.