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Moonlight Shines at the Film Independent Spirit Awards


Moonlight Editors Joi McMillon and NateSanders, Cinematographer James Laxton
Moonlight editors Joi McMillon and Nate Sanders, cinematographer James Laxton

Moonlight, swept top honors at the 32nd Film Independent Spirit Award picking up Best Feature, Best Director and Best Screenplay. In accepting his accolades for the 1.5 million dollar film, director Barry Jenkins not only credited his cast, but also his crew, saying he shared the award with “anybody who’s on the call sheet.” Indicating the trophy he continued, “This thing on the stage has my name on it, but it belongs to you all.”

The film was also honored with all the below-the-line craft awards. James Laxton took home Best Cinematography. In finding a cinematic vision for the film, Laxton shared that they wanted the film to be viewed as a whole, not three separate short films and that the filmmakers sought to create a first person narrative, “an immersive experience into the character’s perspective.”

Joi McMillon and Nat Sanders garnered Best Editing. McMillon, a former American Cinema Editors intern and an assistant editor just last year, made history as the first African American woman to receive the editing honors. Casting director Yesi Ramirez shared the 10th annual Robert Altman Award with the film’s director and ensemble cast.

The Witch was awarded with both Best First Feature and Best First Screenplay. Spa Night won the John Cassavetes Award for best feature made under $500,000.

The seven-hours plus cultural saga on celebrity, race, violence and justice, O.J.: Made in America, took home Best Documentary. Speaking about understanding the dynamics of the subject matter over history, director Ezra Edelman credited ESPN for allowing them to “tell the story the way we learned it” and talked about how the filmmakers “sought to make a film that transcended one person.”

Toni Erdmann received Best International Film. Maren Ade reflected on her rarity as a female director.

Casey Affleck
Casey Affleck

Acting awards were split over four different films with Isabelle Huppert winning Best Female Lead for Elle. Best Male Lead went to Casey Affleck for his performance in Manchester by the Sea. Wearing a team shirt that spelled out “Love” in Arabic, Affleck commented that he normally was not very political, but felt, “It’s a time to struggle for the soul of our nation. I am just adding my little voice.”

Ben Foster garnered Best Supporting Male for Hell or High Water and Molly Shannon took Best Supporting Female for Other People. In accepting her award for playing a mother dying of cancer, Shannon credited the hair and make-up artists who, during the course of the film, transformed her to reflect the various stages of cancer her character was experiencing.

Held Saturday, February 25th, in a tent on the beach in Santa Monica, California, and aired live on IFC, the annual celebration honored artist-driven films made with an economy of means by filmmakers whose films embody independence and originality. In his pre-show remarks, President of Film Independent, Josh Welsh announced grants to filmmakers

Moonlight</em casting director Yesi Ramirez
Moonlight casting director Yesi Ramirez

currently participating in Film Independent Artist Development programs. With the mission of diversity in mind, the 2017 Roger and Chaz Ebert Foundation Fellowship, which includes a cash grant of $10,000, was awarded to Project Involve Fellow, Jomo Fray. The inaugural Turner Fellowship, which includes a $10,000 cash grant, went to Project Involve Fellow Kady Kamakate.

Hosts Nick Kroll and John Mulaney warmed up the crowd with politically tinged humor, joking if the crowd “leaned any further left,” they would be in the Pacific Ocean.

Celebrity presenters included: Fred Armisen, Hank Azaria, Kate Beckinsale, Orlando Bloom, Kirsten Dunst, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Jon Hamm, Colin Hanks, Taraji P. Henson, Samuel L. Jackson, Danny McBride, Janelle Monáe, Viggo Mortensen, David Oyelowo, Amanda Peet, Freida Pinto, Aubrey Plaza, Issa Rae, Edgar Ramirez, Jenny Slate, Miles Teller and Kerry Washington.

Complete list of the winners:

Best Feature

Moonlight (A24)

Producers: Dede Gardner, Jeremy Kleiner, Adele Romanski

Best Director 

Moonlight (A24)

Barry Jenkins

Best Screenplay

Moonlight (A24)

Barry Jenkins, Tarell Alvin McCraney (Story By),

Best First Feature 

The Witch (A24)

Director: Robert Eggers

Producers: Daniel Bekerman, Jay Van Hoy, Lars Knudsen, Jodi Redmond, Rodrigo Teixeira

Best First Screenplay

The Witch (A24)

Robert Eggers

John Cassavetes Award (for best feature made under $500,000)

Spa Night (Strand Releasing)

Writer/Director: Andrew Ahn

Producers: David Ariniello, Giulia Caruso, Ki Jin Kim, Kelly Thomas

Best Documentary 

O.J.: Made in America (ESPN Films)

Director/Producer: Ezra Edelman

Producers: Deirdre Fenton, Libby Geist, Nina Krstic, Erin Leyden, Tamara Rosenberg, Connor Schell, Caroline Waterlow

Best International Film 

Toni Erdmann (Germany and Romania– Sony Pictures Classics)

Director: Maren Ade

Best Female Lead

Elle (Sony Pictures Classics)

Isabelle Huppert

Best Male Lead

Manchester by the Sea (Amazon Studios)

Casey Affleck

Best Supporting Female

Other People (Vertical Entertainment)

Molly Shannon

Best Supporting Male

Hell or High Water (CBS Films/Lionsgate)

Ben Foster

Robert Altman Award 

Moonlight (A24)

Director: Barry Jenkins

Casting Director: Yesi Ramirez

Ensemble Cast: Mahershala Ali, Patrick Decile, Naomie Harris, Alex Hibbert, André Holland, Jharrel Jerome, Janelle Monáe, Jaden Piner, Trevante Rhodes, Ashton Sanders

Best Cinematography

Moonlight (A24)

James Laxton

Best Editing

Moonlight (A24)

Joi McMillon, Nat Sanders

The following grants were presented to emerging filmmakers who have not yet received appropriate recognition:

Piaget Producers Award

($25,000 unrestricted grant)

Jordana Mollick

Kiehl’s Someone to Watch Award

($25,000 unrestricted grant)

The Fits

Director: Anna Rose Holmer

Truer Than Fiction Award

($25,000 unrestricted grant)

Hooligan Sparrow

Director: Nanfu Wang

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