SANTA MONICA (California) • Coming-of-age story Moonlight triumphed last Saturday at the Spirit Awards, adding six trophies to the string of honours it has picked up, with the Oscars just one day away. The awards are dedicated to independent film-makers.
Starring Mahershala Ali and Naomie Harris, Barry Jenkins' movie tells the life story of a young African American struggling to find his place as he grows up in a rough neighbourhood of Miami.
The movie - made for US$1.5 million (S$2.1 million) - took Best Film as well as Best Director for Jenkins and Best Screenplay, Cinematography and Editing.
"This one is tough. There are so many amazing directors in the category," said Jenkins, who beat Andrea Arnold (American Honey), Pablo Larrain (Jackie), Jeff Nichols (Loving) and Kelly Reichardt (Certain Women) to the directing award.
Backstage, the 37-year-old said Moonlight was meant to be a symbol of inclusivity at a time when he was angry about how divided America had become during and after the presidential election campaign.
Best Actor went to Casey Affleck, 41, whose acclaimed performance about a loner who must confront his dark past in Manchester By The Sea has seen him win numerous awards.
"The policies of this administration are abhorrent and will not last. They are un-American," he said on a night of speeches marked by ridicule of or contempt for Republican President Donald Trump.
Best Actress went to Isabelle Huppert, star of Paul Verhoeven's rape- revenge drama Elle who is tipped to mount the most serious challenge to runaway favourite Emma Stone (La La Land) at the Oscars yesterday (this morning Singapore time).
"It's independence that makes art win," Huppert, 63, said in her acceptance speech, later adding backstage: "You can rebel through art. That's what I like about art."
Best Supporting Actor went to Ben Foster for David Mackenzie's neo-western Hell Or High Water while Molly Shannon won the Supporting Actress prize for playing a mother with cancer in Chris Kelly's comedy drama Other People.
The last three winners of the Spirit Awards - Spotlight, Birdman and 12 Years A Slave - all went on to win the Best Picture Oscar, the highest honour in the movie industry.
Moonlight was nominated for and won six Spirit Awards, with the entire cast, Jenkins and casting director Yesi Ramirez getting the special Robert Altman achievement award.
The film is competing for eight Oscars, including Best Picture.
One disappointment was American Honey, written and directed by Arnold and starring Shia LaBeouf, which also secured six nominations, but walked away empty-handed.
Jackie, a political drama focusing on former United States president John F. Kennedy's assassination through the eyes of former first lady Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy, also won nothing.