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Young Moonlight stars return from Oscars to school





Young Moonlight stars return from Oscars to school Young Moonlight stars return from Oscars to school

Seventh-graders Alex Hibbert and Jaden Piner returned to middle school Wednesday as stars of an Oscar-winning film, but the 'Moonlight' actors still had to go back to basics with their classmates in drama class.

At Norland Middle School, they followed acting teacher Tanisha Cidel's directions to crawl on the floor like lions and recite the tongue-twister 'red leather, yellow leather' faster and faster.

Cidel played a principal in the film that also won Oscars for best supporting actor and best adapted screenplay.

 Jaden Piner, left, 13, and Alex Hibbert, 12, speak about what it was like to be at the Academy Awards for their part in the film

Jaden Piner, left, 13, and Alex Hibbert, 12, speak about what it was like to be at the Academy Awards for their part in the film 'Moonlight,' during a news conference at Norland Middle School, Wednesday, March 1, 2017, in Miami Gardens, Fla. The film garnered three Oscars Sunday night, including the award for best picture. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

 Drama teacher Tanisha Cidel, center, laughs with two of her students, Jaden Piner, left, 13, and Alex Hibbert, right, 12, as they head to drama class at Norland Middle School, Wednesday, March 1, 2017, in Miami Gardens, Fla. The three acted in Oscar winning film

Drama teacher Tanisha Cidel, center, laughs with two of her students, Jaden Piner, left, 13, and Alex Hibbert, right, 12, as they head to drama class at Norland Middle School, Wednesday, March 1, 2017, in Miami Gardens, Fla. The three acted in Oscar winning film 'Moonlight.' The film garnered three Oscars Sunday night, including the award for best picture. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

 Jaden Piner, left, 13, and Alex Hibbert, right, 12, run through a drill in which they must show a range of emotions during drama class at Norland Middle School, Wednesday, March 1, 2017, in Miami Gardens, Fla. The two acted in the Oscar winning film

Jaden Piner, left, 13, and Alex Hibbert, right, 12, run through a drill in which they must show a range of emotions during drama class at Norland Middle School, Wednesday, March 1, 2017, in Miami Gardens, Fla. The two acted in the Oscar winning film 'Moonlight.' The film garnered three Oscars Sunday night, including the award for best picture. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

 Jaden Piner, left, 13, corrects his name on a whiteboard mentioning him and Alex Hibbert, right, 12, for being at the Academy Awards for their part in

Jaden Piner, left, 13, corrects his name on a whiteboard mentioning him and Alex Hibbert, right, 12, for being at the Academy Awards for their part in 'Moonlight,' as they attend drama class at Norland Middle School, Wednesday, March 1, 2017, in Miami Gardens, Fla. The film garnered three Oscars Sunday night, including the award for best picture. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

'The key here is not to pretend,' she told her students. 'The key here is to be real. Honest.'

In the communities where 'Moonlight' was filmed, the movie has been lauded this week for its honest representation of life in black Miami, long overshadowed by the city's glitzy hotels and hipster neighborhoods.

Writer-director Barry Jenkins and Tarell Alvin McCraney, whose play 'Moonlight' is based on, both grew up in the Liberty City streets and schools depicted on screen.

 Drama teacher Tanisha Cidel, left rear, instructs students to be a lion as Alex Hibbert, left foreground, 12, crawls on the floor during drama class at Norland Middle School, Wednesday, March 1, 2017, in Miami Gardens, Fla. Cidel, Hibbert and another student acted in Oscar winning film

Drama teacher Tanisha Cidel, left rear, instructs students to be a lion as Alex Hibbert, left foreground, 12, crawls on the floor during drama class at Norland Middle School, Wednesday, March 1, 2017, in Miami Gardens, Fla. Cidel, Hibbert and another student acted in Oscar winning film 'Moonlight.' The film garnered three Oscars Sunday night, including the award for best picture. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

 Drama teacher Tanisha Cidel speaks about her and two of her student's rolls in the Academy Award winning film

Drama teacher Tanisha Cidel speaks about her and two of her student's rolls in the Academy Award winning film 'Moonlight,' during a news conference at Norland Middle School, Wednesday, March 1, 2017, in Miami Gardens, Fla. The film garnered three Oscars Sunday night, including the award for best picture. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

 A sign outside Norland Middle School congratulates the Academy Award winning film

A sign outside Norland Middle School congratulates the Academy Award winning film 'Moonlight,' which included performances by two of its students and their drama teacher, Wednesday, March 1, 2017, in Miami Gardens, Fla. The film garnered three Oscars Sunday night, including the award for best picture. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

'It shows that Liberty City is not really a bad place and you can't judge it by the news,' 12-year-old Alex said. 'When you watch "Moonlight," you find the beauty of Liberty City.'

'Moonlight' follows the life of a young black man - played as a child by Alex - as he grows up in poverty and comes to terms with his own homosexuality. Jaden plays his classmate.

Thirteen-year-old Jaden said he could relate to his character's desire to help a friend, but Alex said the bullying his character suffers fortunately wasn't something he had experienced.

Both boys said they figured it was a joke when the audience was belatedly told the top award went to 'Moonlight' and not 'La La Land.' In the confusion, they had to jump over other audience members to join the rest of their cast onstage.

 
 
 

'I jumped over this guy, and he was screaming, "What the --?" and I was like, "I'm sorry, I just won an award!"' Alex said.

An Oscars highlight for both boys: meeting 'The Amazing Spider-Man' actor Andrew Garfield.

Jaden said 'Moonlight' ''shows Miami kids are talented not only in sports.'

Alex said he'll next act in a television series in Chicago, starting in April.

Alex, Jaden and their teacher walked down a 'red carpet' taped to a classroom floor to talk with reporters, but they weren't alone in the limelight: About a dozen other Norland students had roles as extras in the film.

Cidel said her students shouldn't be the only ones inspired by the movie's success.

'I want the parents to understand that if your child has any talent or shows an interest in the arts, take it seriously,' she said.


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