SANTA MONICA (February 8, 2020) – In a celebration honoring artist-driven films made with an economy of means by filmmakers whose films embody diversity, innovation and uniqueness of vision, the Film Independent Spirit Awards were handed out at the ceremony held on the beach in Santa Monica. The Farewell took home Best Feature and Best Supporting Female, and Uncut Gems garnered Best Director, Best Male Lead and Best Editing.
In talking to the gathered crowd of filmmakers, perhaps the best quote of the night came from Robert DeNiro when introducing the Best Feature Award. “The Independent Spirit is taking over the entire industry,” said DeNiro. Then after a pause, he finished to thunderous applause, “About fucking time!”
Best Feature Winner writer/director/producer, Lulu Wang (The Farewell), commented on the successful collaboration between Chinese and American crews despite cultural differences. She also remarked that female directors did not have to be encouraged to work in film because plenty of women were already doing it and then exclaimed, “Give them the frickin’ job! Give them the money!”
Writer/director/editor Kelly Reichardt garnered the Bonnie Award, honoring an extraordinary female director in mid-career. The award presenter, America Ferrera, noted that of the top grossing films, only 10.6% were directed by women. Joining the ranks of female directors who will push up those dismal percentages, actress Olivia Wilde – with her largely female cast gathered together with the help of casting director Allison Jones – took home Best First Feature for Booksmart.
Other major winners included The Lighthouse, which won Best Supporting Male and Best Cinematography; Marriage Story which won the Robert Altman Award and Best Screenplay; Judy which won Best Female Lead; See You Yesterday which won Best First Screenplay; Give Me Liberty which won the John Cassavetes Award; American Factory which won Best Documentary; and Parasite which won Best International Film.
In talking to the press, Best Supporting Male winner, Willem Dafoe (The Lighthouse) shared his thoughts on the role of the crew in developing character, “I always feel like those are all the things that help you enter a world, make you feel differently, make you think differently. And that helps you with the pretending…They’re all very important because if you take them on, you feel transformed by some of those external things, it really has a effect.”
The 13th annual Robert Altman Award was given to one film’s director, casting director and ensemble cast. Marriage Story director Noah Baumbach received this award, along with casting directors Douglas Aibel and Francine Maisler. Cast members Alan Alda, Laura Dern, Adam Driver, Julie Hagerty, Scarlett Johansson, Ray Liotta, Azhy Robertson and Merritt Wever were also honored.
In addition to honoring casting directors Douglas Aibel and Francine Maisler with the Altman Award, the below the line crew were honored for cinematography and editing. Uncut Gems editors Ronald Bronstein and Benny Safdie won Best Editing. Best Cinematography went to Jarin Blaschke for The Lighthouse. Blaschke chose to shoot in black and white, 35 mm film in order to achieve the look and texture that he and director Robert Eggers desired for the film.
Best Documentary (American Factory) Director/Producer, Steven Bognar, took the time to thank his crew by name adding, “The crew gave tremendous labor and talent to making this film.” He also thanked Barack and Michelle Obama for making the film the first one picked up by their production company, Higher Ground, which is dedicated to producing powerful stories to entertain, inform and inspire. Co-Producer/Director, Julie Reichert spoke of de-escalating the tensions between the Chinese and American peoples, who suffer the same income inequality, through common “humanity and empathy”.
Complete List of the Winners:
The Farewell (A24) – Producers: Anita Gou, Daniele Melia, Andrew Miano, Peter Saraf, Marc Turtletaub, Lulu Wang, Chris Weitz, Jane Zheng
Benny Safdie & Josh Safdie – Uncut Gems (A24)
Noah Baumbach – Marriage Story (Netflix)
Best First Feature:
Booksmart (Annapurna Pictures/United Artists Releasing) – Director: Olivia Wilde; Producers: Chelsea Barnard, David Distenfeld, Jessica Elbaum, Megan Ellison and Katie Silberman
Best First Screenplay:
Fredrica Bailey & Stefon Bristol – See You Yesterday (Netflix)
John Cassavetes Award (For best feature made under $500,000):
Give Me Liberty (Music Box Films) – Writer/Director/Producer: Kirill Mikhanovsky; Writer/Producer: Alice Austen; Producers: Val Abel, Wally Hall, Michael Manasseri, George Rush, Sergey Shtern
Best Supporting Female:
Zhao Shuzhen – The Farewell (A24)
Best Supporting Male:
Willem Dafoe – The Lighthouse (A24)
Best Female Lead:
Renée Zellweger – Judy (Roadside Attractions)
Best Male Lead:
Adam Sandler – Uncut Gems (A24)
Robert Altman Award:
Marriage Story (Netflix) – Director: Noah Baumbach; Casting Directors: Douglas Aibel, Francine Maisler; Ensemble Cast: Alan Alda, Laura Dern, Adam Driver, Julie Hagerty, Scarlett Johansson, Ray Liotta, Azhy Robertson, Merritt Wever
Jarin Blaschke – The Lighthouse (A24)
Ronald Bronstein & Benny Safdie – Uncut Gems (A24)
Best International Film:
Parasite (South Korea—Neon) – Director: Bong Joon-Ho
American Factory (Netflix) -Director/Producer: Steven Bognar & Julia Reichert; Producers: Julie Parker Benello, Jeff Reichert