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‘Moonlight,’ Lee Daniels, Sidney Poitier Take Top Honors at AAFCA Awards

Variety logo Variety 2/9/2017 Mannie Holmes
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Moonlight” shined bright at the 8th annual African-American Film Critics Association Awards on Wednesday night in Hollywood.

Barry Jenkins took the stage three times, accepting awards for best director, best independent film, and best picture for the Oscar-nominated drama. Jenkins was undoubtedly the man of the hour: Lee Daniels bowed to him before accepting his Cinema Vanguard Award, while John Singleton sang his praises — “none of us [directors] get it perfect, but Barry Jenkins has gotten it perfect.”

But the coming-of-age drama didn’t stop there. Prizes also went out to co-stars Mahershala Ali and Janelle Monae, who nabbed the org’s breakout performance trophy for her roles in “Moonlight” and “Hidden Figures.”

Sanaa Lathan, who presented the award to Ali, said she first met the Oscar-nominated actor about 20 years ago. “All the girls used to call him Hershey bar,” she admitted. “Lucky for us, he is finally getting the spotlight he deserves  in ‘Moonlight.'”

AAFCA president Gil Robertson shared the same sentiment. “We are here from the beginning of your career until they put you in the ground,” he said, alongside fellow AAFCA founder, Shawn Edwards. The org proved its commitment to ushering young talent by shining a spotlight on new stars like Demetrius Shipp Jr., from Lionsgate’s upcoming Tupac Shakur biopic “All Eyez on Me.” The audience gasped at his uncanny resemblance to the late rapper throughout his introduction of the film’s trailer, which they then later applauded.

The highest honor of the evening went to Sidney Poitier, who received the inaugural Icon Award. Karen Sharpe, the wife of late “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner?” director Stanley Kramer, accepted the award on his behalf.

“Stanley was already using film as a weapon to fight against bigotry, discrimination, man’s inhumanity to man, and the excessive abuse of power,” she began. “These two men came together to make change.”

Guests took home a 50th anniversary re-release of “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner?” on Blu-ray, among other gifts.

Here’s the full winners list for the 2017 AAFCA Awards:

Cinema Vanguard: Lee Daniels

Icon Award: Sidney Poitier

Horizon Award: Director-producer Anthony Hemingway (“Underground”)

Legacy Award: Disney animator Floyd Norman

Best Picture: “Moonlight” (A24)

Best Director: Barry Jenkins, “Moonlight” (A24)

Best Actor: Denzel Washington, “Fences” (Paramount)

Best Actress: Ruth Negga, “Loving” (Focus Features)

Best Supporting Actor: Mahershala Ali, “Moonlight” – (A24)

Best Supporting Actress: Viola Davis, “Fences” (Paramount)

Best Ensemble: The cast of “Hidden Figures” (20th Century Fox)

Breakout Performance 2017 – Janelle Monae for “Moonlight” and “Hidden Figures”

Best Independent Film: “Moonlight” (A24)

Best Animation Film: “Zootopia” (Disney)

Best Song – “Victory” from “Hidden Figures” (20th Century Fox)

Best Documentary – “13th” (Netflix)

Best Foreign Film – “Tanna” (Lightyear Entertainment)

Best Screenplay – August Wilson, “Fences” (Paramount)

Best TV Show (Drama) – “Queen Sugar” (OWN)

Best TV Show (Comedy) – “Atlanta” (FX)

Best TV Show (Cable/New Media) – “Underground” (WGN America)

Best TV Show (Special/Limited Series) – “Lemonade” (HBO)

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