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“Moonlight” pulls a sweep at the Gotham Awards

Last night, the Gotham Independent Film Awards held their ceremony in Manhattan. There, they crowned Barry Jenkins’ Moonlight in a big way, giving it victories in every single category it was nominated in. Could this be a sign of things to come? That remains to be seen, but this does begin to cement it as the independent contender to beat. Remember, for what it’s worth, Gotham gave their biggest prize last year to Spotlight. This time around, they did the same to Moonlight. You’ll see everything below, but if you wanted a big takeaway, it’s that Jenkins and company are here to stay this awards season. It’s still early, but bet against this one scoring major Oscar nomination attention at your own risk.

The big winner out of Gotham yesterday was obviously Moonlight, which took Best Feature from competitors Certain Women, Everybody Wants Some, Manchester by the Sea, and Paterson, but other victors were crowned. For example, Casey Affleck expectedly won Best Actor for Manchester by the Sea. He beat back Jeff Bridges for Hell or High Water, Adam Driver for Paterson, Joel Edgerton for Loving, and Craig Robinson for Morris from America. In an upset, Isabelle Huppert won Best Actress for Elle, taking the prize from Kate Beckinsale for Love & Friendship, Annette Bening for 20th Century Women, Ruth Negga for Loving, and Natalie Portman for Jackie. Affleck joins Moonlight as a big Academy player and potentially the frontrunner in Actor, while Huppert continues to make her case as a dark horse in Actress.

Im case anyone forgot, the film is a character study of the highest order. We follow a young black man named Chiron as he grows up in a tough Miami neighborhood. As a boy (Alex R. Hibbert), he knows he’s different, with his classmates picking on him. Chiron hasn’t quite figured out that he’s gay yet, but the kids have, and so has both his mother Paula (Naomie Harris) and a local drug dealer named Juan (Mahershala Ali). Lacking a father figure, Juan guides Chiron at this point in his life, though he’s out of the picture by the time he’s a teenager (Ashton Sanders). That’s where he begins to form a bond with Kevin (Jharrel Jerome), one that will continue into adulthood (where Chiron is now played by Trevante Rhodes and Kevin is played by André Holland). Like I’ve written about in the past, t’s just so tender a work, though I’ll continue to be vague on purpose, in case anyone hasn’t seen it yet. Obviously, Jenkins co-writes with Tarell McCraney and directs this movie. Other cast members of note here include Janelle Monáe, Jaden Piner, and more. James Laxton handles the cinematography for Moonlight, while Nicholas Britell contributes the score.

Here now is the full list of winners from the Gotham Independent Film Awards:

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

Best Actress
Isabelle Huppert in Elle (Sony Pictures Classics)

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

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

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

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

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)

Breakthrough Series – Short Form
Her Story, Jen Richards and Laura Zak, creators (

Stay tuned to see how these winners far during the rest of the precursor season!

About Joey Magidson

A graduate of Stony Brook University (where he studied Cinema and Cultural Studies), resides in Brooklyn, New York. He contributes to several other film-related websites and is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association.

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