By Oralia Ortega

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MIAMI (CBSMiami) – It’s been a whirlwind past few days for 13-year-old Jaden Piner.

The Norland Middle School student played one of the main characters as a child in the Academy Award-winning film “Moonlight.”

“It was exciting just stepping foot inside the red carpet. It was an amazing experience!” said Jaden.

CBS4’s Oralia Ortega caught up with Jaden, who’s still in Los Angeles, via FaceTime.

He said nothing topped hearing the movie announced as the “Best Picture” winner at the Academy Awards Sunday night – that is after a huge mix-up.

“Tarell was depressed when they said ‘La La Land.’ But when they said ‘Moonlight’ at first I thought it was a joke, but then when they said, ‘No, we’re serious.’ We was so happy,” said Jaden.

“Moonlight” is the coming-of-age movie about a young man growing up in Liberty City and the struggles to survive poverty drugs and his sexuality.

Tarell Alvin McCraney, who co-wrote the screenplay, and Barry Jenkins, the co-writer and director, both from Liberty City, accepted one of three awards last night.

“We are two boys from Liberty City up here representing the 305. This goes out to all those black and brown boys and girls and non-gender-conforming who don’t see themselves. We’re trying to show you and us, so thank you, thank you. This is for you,” said McCraney.

Marshall Davis, the managing director of the “African Heritage Cultural Arts Center” in Liberty City, says he couldn’t be more proud of McCraney, who attended after-school classes at the location.

“He has always been a compassionate person,” said Davis. “Tarrell, when he first came, was a very quiet young man and the film kind of really lets you know what was his struggle and why he was so quiet. But after a while, you saw Terrell smile and really get engaged and really feel warm and just happy to be here.”

Staff members at the center say McCraney has kept in touch throughout the years and even came back there to make it a part of his Oscar-winning film.

“Actors were auditioned here and some of the actors that were auditioned here were actually cast in the movie,” said Cheryl Mizell. “I was thrilled to find out that we had scenes in the movie and to also learn that the cultural arts center has credit at the end of the movie and Mr. Davis is also given credits in the movie.”

The African Heritage Cultural Arts Center says it plans to hold a celebration to mark the picture’s big win.


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