A gay filmmaker won Best First Screenplay at the Independent Spirit Awards on Saturday.
Justin Simien, who was honored in The Advocate’s 40 Under 40 last year, took home the distinguished prize for his film Dear White People, a critically acclaimed satire of race and sexuality on a fictional Ivy League campus.
Simien, 31, gave a moving acceptance speech that drove home the importance of having minority voices in film.
"I started writing this movie some 10 years ago as an impulse because I didn't really [see] my story out there in the culture. I didn't see myself reflected back at me in the films that I loved or the stories that resonated for me," he said. "So I tried to put myself in the culture. That can be difficult when, along the way, there's really nothing there to tell you that you belong there."
"This means so much to me, because it means I do belong in the culture. I'm very grateful. And if you have a story, and if you don't see yourself in the culture, please put yourself there, because we need you. We need to see the world from your eyes," he concluded.
The awards ceremony, traditionally held the day before the Academy Awards, honors independent films and filmmakers. Birdman, J.K. Simmons, Julianne Moore, and Patricia Arquette were among the honorees on Saturday who would go on to win Oscars the following day.
Watch Simien's speech below, and see a full list of winners at SpiritAwards.com.