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Films Moonlight, Manchester by the Sea score at IFP Gotham Awards

[NEW YORK] Independent films Moonlight and Manchester by the Sea took home top prizes at this year's IFP Gotham Film Awards in New York City.

The 26th annual Independent Filmmaker Project award ceremony on Monday night is widely seen as the start of the US film award season.

Casey Affleck won Best Actor for his portrayal of Lee Chandler in Manchester by the Sea, a janitor whose solitary life is upended when his brother dies and names him guardian of his teenage son Patrick, played by Lucas Hedges.

Hedges, 19, praised screenwriter and director Kenneth Longergan for creating an accurate teenage character.

"I have never seen anyone who could write a teenager this well," he said. "There are tons and tons of screenwriters who have no idea how to write teenagers."

Moonlight won for Best Feature and earned the Special Gotham Jury Award for best ensemble acting.

The film details the life of an African-American boy as he comes to terms with adolescence and his sexuality during three defining moments of his life.

Winners of the Gotham Best Feature award have gone on to win best picture at the Academy Awards for the past two years.

REUTERS