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Spotlight wins big at Film Independent Spirit Awards


Story by Jack Foley

JOURNALISM drama Spotlight emerged as the big winner at the Film Independent Spirit Awards on Saturday, the day before the Academy Awards.

Tom McCarthy’s account of the Boston Globe’s Pulitzer-winning investigation into a massive child abuse cover-up within the Catholic archdiocese claimed five wins, including best feature and best director for Tom McCarthy.

It also picked up best screenplay, for McCarthy and co-writer Josh Singer, best editing and the Robert Altman Award for best ensemble.

The annual Independent Spirit awards show serves as a counter to the Oscars by solely honouring the year’s best in independent film. But this year’s ceremony proved even more notable for the way in which it rewarded diversity.

Where Sunday’s Oscars ceremony has been hit by a social media campaign under the hashtag #OscarsSoWhite, as well as high profile boycotts among artists, the Spirit Awards quietly gained further respect by recognised and rewarded the contributions of filmmakers from all walks of the artistic community.

Three of the four acting awards went to people of colour, with Tangerine breakout Mya Taylor becoming the first transgender actor to win a major award – best supporting female. The film, directed by Sean Baker on a micro-budget, was shot on an iPhone.

Upon picking up her trophy, Taylor commented: “There is transgender talent. There’s very beautiful transgender talent. You better get out there and put them in your next movie!”

Another of the big winners was Netflix movie Beasts of No Nation, which saw young Ghanaian actor Abraham Attah winning best male lead and his co-star, Idris Elba, crowned best supporting male. The film, about child soldiers, is another at the forefront of this year’s Oscars controversy given that British actor Elba had been widely expected to pick up a nomination at the very least, only to find himself snubbed.

Brie Larson, the Room star considered the front-runner to win the Oscar for best actress, netted best female lead.

She told the audience: “[Independent film] is what helped me grow up. It’s what helped make me see what a real woman was, what real love looked like, what messiness of life looks like.”

Three other winners at the laidback beach-side event in Santa Monica were Son of Saul, which was named best international film, Krisha, which took the John Cassavetes Award (given to the best feature made for a budget under $500,000), and Carol, which won best cinematography for Ed Lachman.

The winners and nominees in full (winners appear in bold)

Best Feature
Beasts of No Nation

Best Director
Sean Baker, Tangerine
Cary Joji Fukunaga, Beasts of No Nation
Todd Haynes, Carol
Charlie Kaufman & Duke Johnson, Anomalisa
Tom McCarthy, Spotlight
David Robert Mitchell, It Follows

Best Screenplay
Charlie Kaufman, Anomalisa
Donald Margulies, The End of the Tour
Phyllis Nagy, Carol
Tom McCarthy & Josh Singer, Spotlight
S. Craig Zahler, Bone Tomahawk

Best First Feature
The Diary of a Teenage Girl
James White
Manos Sucias
Songs My Brothers Taught Me

Best First Screenplay
Jesse Andrews, Me and Earl and the Dying Girl
Jonas Carpignano, Mediterranea
Emma Donoghue, Room
Marielle Heller, The Diary of a Teenage Girl
John Magary, Russell Harbaugh, Myna Joseph, The Mend

Best Male Lead
Christopher Abbott, James White
Abraham Attah, Beasts of No Nation
Ben Mendelsohn, Mississippi Grind
Jason Segel, The End of the Tour
Koudous Seihon, Mediterranea

Best Female Lead
Cate Blanchett, Carol
Brie Larson, Room
Rooney Mara, Carol
Bel Powley, The Diary of A Teenage Girl
Kitana Kiki Rodriguez, Tangerine

Best Supporting Male
Kevin Corrigan, Results
Paul Dano, Love & Mercy
Idris Elba, Beasts of No Nation
Richard Jenkins, Bone Tomahawk
Michael Shannon, 99 Homes

Best Supporting Female
Robin Bartlett, H.
Marin Ireland, Glass Chin
Jennifer Jason Leigh, Anomalisa
Cynthia Nixon, James White
Mya Taylor, Tangerine

Best Documentary
Best of Enemies
Heart of a Dog
The Look of Silence
The Russian Woodpecker

Best International Film
A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence
Embrace of the Serpent
Son of Saul

Best Cinematography
Beasts of No Nation
It Follows
Songs My Brothers Taught Me

Best Editing
Heaven Knows What
It Follows
Manos Sucias

John Cassavetes Award (Best Feature Under $500,000)
Christmas, Again
Heaven Knows What
Out of My Hand

Robert Altman Award (Best Ensemble)