Moonlight director Barry Jenkins says his Oscars nomination is "bittersweet"

By Char Adams
February 26, 2017 08:25 PM

Moonlight director Barry Jenkins is opening up about his history-making Oscars nomination, declaring that he’s “already a winner.”

Jenkins is the first black filmmaker nominated for both Best Directing and Best Writing (Adapted Screenplay), but the nominee said past directors were more deserving.

“I’m already a winner,” he told PEOPLE on the red carpet at the 89th Academy Awards on Sunday.

“Being the first anything at this point is bittersweet because there have been other black directors who have made work that was good enough to be awarded an Academy Award.”

Barry Jenkins
| Credit: Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP

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The coming-of-age movie has been a favorite this award season, snagging Oscars nominations for Best Picture, Best Original Score, Best Film Editing, Best Cinematography along with Best Directing and Best Writing (Adapted Screenplay).

However, Jenkins said he was never concerned with the movie becoming widely popular, but credited the film’s success to the actors, noting that they gave their “full selves.”

Check out PEOPLE’s full 2017 Academy Awards coverage and complete winners list!

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The nominations come just one year after the popular award show faced criticism for its lack of diversity, but Jenkins told PEOPLE that, this year, he tried to take the race-based controversy “off the table.”

“I’m glad to be at an award season this year where I think that films that are nominated reflect the industry I work in and the world that I live in,” he said.

The Academy Awards kicks off live on ABC on Sunday, Feb. 26, with a 7 p.m. ET pre-show and 8:30 p.m. ceremony. See all the Oscar nominees and get your own ballot here!