SANTA MONICA, California — Moonlight swept the 2017 Film Independent Spirit Awards today, winning all six categories it was nominated in, including Best Feature. Backstage, after the rousing victory, the film's director and co-writer Barry Jenkins fielded questions from reporters, one of which began her query by noting the film's themes of identity. Jenkins interrupted: "Are you saying the country doesn't know its identity right now?"
Jenkins then had one word to describe the current state of America, within that identity problem. "Terrible. Terrible. There's no other way to answer that question." Like many in his Moonlight family, Jenkins wore a togetherness pin (an ampersand that's "about bringing all of us together," he explained); he has been vocal about his opposition to President Donald Trump's administration throughout this year's awards campaign.
The 37-year-old filmmaker went on to say that he hopes Moonlight serves as an example of what America could and should be: a deeply inclusive community brought together by its peoples' differences. "I think Moonlight exists as this beacon of inclusivity, as this version of America that's as valid as any red state, meat-eating version of America," he said. "I'm empowered by that. I gotta tell more stories and speak truth to power. I made this movie under a very different [presidential] administration, it was a very safe space. And so it's just keep positive to keep making things in that way because, thank God, it exists, because now those spaces are not so safe."
Moonlight star Janelle Monáe picked up where her director left off, saying that the film not only represents the kind of world she hopes to live in, but her commitment to telling stories that reflect America as it truly is in 2017. "I think all of us are true artists," she began. "We're constantly inspired and motivated to do more; to do projects that are not just for ourselves but for the rest of humanity and I think this movie has brought so many people together. It's just one example of what happens when a community is able to have their stories told and seen, and it inspires so many people around the world to feel like they are a part of this America fabric.
"Their voice does matter, it does not matter where they come from, whether they're poor, rich, gay, straight, woman, man; you name it, we all deserve to have our stories told. And I'm so happy this story has been told."
At the Spirits, Moonlight won Best Feature, Best Director, Best Screenplay, Best Cinematography, Best Editing, and the Robert Altman Award, which is "given to one film’s director, casting director, and ensemble cast."