janelle monae
Janelle Monae accepts the spotlight award at the 20th annual Hollywood Film Awards at the Beverly Hilton Hotel on Sunday, Nov. 6, 2016, in Beverly Hills, Calif. (Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP)

The Hollywood Film Awards took place over the weekend, marking the official start to award season. While the Golden Globes, SAG Awards, and Oscars garner most of the attention, the HFAs are a good indication of which films may win big this winter.

This year, Black filmmakers and actors are in contention for some of the most coveted prizes of the season because films like Moonlight, Loving, Hidden Figures, United Kingdom, and Fences. While #OscarsSoWhite and the lack of diversity in Hollywood has dominated the conversation over the past two years, these films offer a glimmer of hope that the tide is finally turning.

Sunday night, Eddie Murphy, Naomie Harris, and Janelle Monae took home awards during the HFAs, once again putting them at the center of the conversation for the upcoming season.

Murphy, who returned to the screen this year in Mr. Church, was honored with the Career Achievement Award. During his acceptance speech he, the actor had the crowd rolling with laughter.

While Murphy had the crowd chuckling, British actress Naomie Harris, who won the Breakout Award, talked about the power of shared humanity and how she was able to connect with her crack-addicted character, Paula, in Moonlight. 

“The difference between the other and the self is far smaller than we initially imagine. It’s at the heart at what audiences who watch Moonlight are moved by,” Harris said. “In a world that seeks to exploit and emphasize our difference, it’s a healing antidote and a timely reminder of our shared humanity.”

Another winner, Janelle Monae, who also appears in Moonlight and took home the Spotlight Award, also shouted out the women whose story she helped bring to life in Hidden Figures.

“This work reflects a story that so desperately needed to be told,” a tearful Monae told the audience. “The stories of these women, who defied all odds and got the first Americans into space. These women represent what it means to rise from being the underdog to the hero. Despite being told their dreams weren’t valid due to systemic racism and gender inequalities. I’m just so thankful to every person that helped and allowed me to get to this moment to celebrate these women.”

Based on its showing at the HFAs and its popularity with critics and audiences, it looks like Moonlight might just be the film to beat this season.



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