Published:  12:00 AM, 28 February 2017

Oscars bathed in Moonlight

(L-R) Producers Jeremy Kleiner (L) and Adele Romanski (C), winners of the award for Best Picture for Moonlight, pose with filmmaker Barry Jenkins in the press room during the 89th Annual Academy Awards at Hollywood & Highland Center on Sunday -AFP

Moonlight, a poignant story of human connection and self-discovery in the tough projects of southern Florida, won the best picture Oscar on Sunday, besting favorite La La Land -- though not without drama.

Starring Mahershala Ali and Naomie Harris, the film by director Barry Jenkins tells the life story of a young African-American struggling to find his place as he grows up poor in Miami.

The prize was only given to the film after a massive on-stage mix-up that led to La La Land first being given the award -- an Oscars moment sure to rank among the most infamous in history.  "I told my students, 'Be in love with the process, not the result.'

I really wanted this result," Jenkins said as he accepted the award for best adapted screenplay -- one of three on the night for the film. Later, after the mistake, he told reporters: "It's unfortunate things happened the way they did but damn, we won best picture."

Played by three different actors at various stages in his young life, Chiron, the film's central character, grows up among drug addicts as he gradually comes to terms with his homosexuality.

The film has won plaudits as a vital portrait of contemporary African American life and is praised in equal measure as a groundbreaking and personal meditation on identity, family, friendship and love.

Set in Miami's notorious Liberty City public housing project, among the most crime-infested neighborhoods in America, "Moonlight" has won almost unanimous praise for its acting, direction, screenplay and cinematography.

It has an average rating of nine out of 10 from more than 200 reviews aggregated by film website Rotten Tomatoes. Moonlight uses one man's story to offer a remarkable and brilliantly crafted look at lives too rarely seen in cinema," the site's critical consensus reads. 

Harris ("Spectre," "Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom") has earned nominations at all the major awards ceremonies for her intense performance as Chiron's crack-addicted single mother, but came out empty-handed.

She was beaten to the best supporting actress Oscar by Viola Davis, who picked up her statuette on her third try for "Fences," having previously been nominated for Doubt (2008) and The Help (2011). Moonlight had been pushing clear of the also-rans in the betting for best film but was still seen as significantly behind "La La Land."

The Oscar goes t0..oops!

The evening also represented a move towards burying the #OscarsSoWhite controversy of the past two years, with two of the four acting prizes and a handful of other major awards going to African American nominees.But the stunning final stumble was a nightmare of a Hollywood ending that no one wanted to see.

Tinseltown legends Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway, stars of 1967 crime classic "Bonnie and Clyde" and both past Oscar winners, were meant to give the best picture Oscar to Barry Jenkins's film.

But after the pair were apparently handed the wrong envelope, she mistakenly called it for La La Land, Damien Chazelle's nostalgic musical. Scenes of confusion and embarrassment followed after the La La Land crew -- already on stage and delivering speeches -- suddenly realized the  mistake and announced themselves that Moonlight had actually won.

Beatty, the 79-year-old veteran actor and director, said he'd been given the wrong envelope -- the one containing the card announcing La La Land star Emma Stone's best actress win.


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