Moonlight: My Favorite Film, Wins 2016 Best Picture

After some embarrassing mix-up, Moonlight ultimately triumphed at the Oscars on Sunday night, earning Best Picture.

Barry Jenkins’ coming-of-age/coming out emotional drama beat out the category’s frontrunners La La Land, as well as Arrival, Fences, Hacksaw Ridge, Hell or High Water, Hidden Figures, Lion and Manchester by the Sea.

The award was given to Moonlight after presenters Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway wrongfully announced that La La Land had won best picture. As the film’s producers were making their acceptance speeches, producer Jordan Horowitz informed viewers that the category’s winner was actually Moonlight, and showed the card announcing the winner to the camera. Beatty then informed the stunned audience of the mixup, as he and Dunaway had mistakenly read off the card for best actress, which was presented to La La Land‘s Emma Stone just minutes before.

“I hope that it’s inspiring to people, little black boys and brown girls and other folks watching at home who feel marginalized,” said producer Adele Romanski onstage, alongside fellow producers Dede Gardner and Jeremy Kleiner. “Take some inspiration from seeing this beautiful group of artists helmed by this amazing talent Jenkins.”

“There was a time when I thought this movie was impossible because I couldn’t bring it fruition, I couldn’t bring myself tell another story. Everybody behind me on the stage said, ‘No, that’s not acceptable,'” added Jenkins, thanking the cast.

The A24 release earned eight Oscar nominations, making it one of the second-highest nominated titles of the night (Arrival also had eight, and La La Land led with 14). Throughout the evening, it won the Oscar for best adapted screenplay, as well as for supporting actor Mahershala Ali.

Based on Tarell Alvin McCraney’s play, the intimate Moonlight looks at the life of a young black man growing up in a tough Miami neighborhood. The story is told through three chapters of his life, each of which features different actors as the central character at different ages.

It’s a story to which writer-director Jenkins related because, like a character played by Oscar nominee Naomie Harris, his mother was previously addicted to crack cocaine.

Ashton Sanders (right), as the teenage Chiron, is a theater major at DePaul University, where playwright McCraney, whose life he depicts, also studied.
“Instead of shooting her over the course of five weeks, we shot all her work in three days. So for three days I am just living in walking therapy,” he said. “It was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do because I had to separate myself, the director, from myself the human being, reliving all these things that I’ve tried my hardest to not relive.”

The film began garnering critical acclaim upon its debut at the Telluride Film Fest, also for notable performances by supporting actors Ali and Harris.

The drama won the top nod at the Golden Globes and swept the indie-lauding Spirit Award. Shot for under $2 million, the film has grossed $22 million at the worldwide box office.