Saturday, February 23 was a cool, but sunny afternoon for the 34th Annual Film Independent Spirit Awards, held in the show’s signature white tent on Santa Monica Beach. The annual celebration honored independent, artist-driven films made with a budget under $20 million. With her impeccable comedic delivery, actress/comedian Aubrey Plaza, host of the IFC broadcast, started everyone laughing as she dedicated the show to “all the freaks.”
The atmosphere was upbeat and fun, a characteristic of the disruptive nature of the show. Film Independent President Josh Welch commented, “Unlike the Oscars, the Independent Spirit Awards have never taken themselves too seriously.”
Based upon James Baldwin’s book, If Beale Street Could Talk won Best Feature, Best Director for Barry Jenkins (Oscar, Best Director, Moonlight), and Best Supporting Female for Regina King. Other top honors went to Can You Ever Forgive Me? with Best Screenplay awarded to Nicole Holofcener and Jeff Whitty, and Best Supporting Actor accolades presented to Richard Grant.
In accepting his award, Grant credited costume designer, Arjun Bhasin, with helping shape the
character. “Arjun gave me amazing wardrobe of ballet-type clothes from the early eighties, that on an advanced middle-aged man was the last gasp of the singles bar scene in the early nineties when everything was threadbare and shot to pieces. That helped me enormously. I asked if I could wear a bandana for my final scene where I am obviously dying of AIDS because the man that really inspired so much of this performance was a man…who died of AIDS at the age of forty…The last time I saw him, he was wearing that. That was a homage to that generation of men that I knew.”
Sorry to Bother You won Best First Feature; Won’t You Be My Neighbor garnered Best Documentary; and Oscar favorite, Alfonso Cuarón’s Roma, took home Best International Film.
Veteran actress, Glenn Close, received her first Spirit award, Best Female Lead, for The Wife. She graciously gave credit to not only the director and actors that made her performance possible, but also the crew who supported her efforts on screen saying, “ I wouldn’t be here without you.” Although iconic writer/director Paul Schrader (Taxi Driver) did not win for his picture, First Reformed, indie favorite, Ethan Hawke was awarded Best Male Lead for his role in the film.
Created to honor a mid-career female filmmaker, The Bonnie Award, was presented to director Debra Granik, who failed to earn an Oscar nomination despite critical acclaim for her film Leave No Trace. The award includes $50,000 in unrestricted grants. Unlike the all male nominees in the Motion Picture Academy’s Best Director category, three out of five director nominees this year at the Spirits were women – Tamara Jenkins (Private Life), Lynne Ramsay (You Were Never Really Here) and Granik.
In her acceptance Granik stressed the importance for filmmakers to “keep going” and “put your nose to the grindstone.”
Below the line awards went to Sayombhu Mukdeeprom for Best Cinematography on Suspiria, which also took the Robert Altman Award honoring director Luca Guadagnino, casting directors, Avy Kaufman and Stella Savino, and the film’s ensemble cast (see below). Joe Bini, Werner Herzog’s long-time editor, garnered Best Editing for his work on You Were Never Really Here.
Commenting on the editing Bini said, “It’s a film about tension. We had to figure out a way to structure it to keep you watching, so that you’re wondering the whole time what’s going on in this guys mind. Of course we had this incredible actor [Joaquin Phoenix] whose face, you’re always interested in what’s going on cerebrally. That part of it was incredible.”
Presenters included Sterling K. Brown, Gemma Chan, Glenn Close, Laura Dern, Mark Duplass, Elsie Fisher, Regina Hall, Armie Hammer, Brian Tyree Henry, Taraji P. Henson, Michael Keaton, Riley Keough, Kiki Layne, Thomasin Harcourt Mckenzie, Viggo Mortensen, Carey Mulligan, Ray Romano, Ekaterina Samsonov, Amanda Seyfried, Molly Shannon, Lakeith Stanfield, Tessa Thompson, Finn Wolfhard and more.
Complete list of the winners:
If Beale Street Could Talk (Annapurna Pictures) – Producers: Dede Gardner, Barry Jenkins, Jeremy Kleiner, Sara Murphy, Adele Romanski
If Beale Street Could Talk (Annapurna Pictures) – Barry Jenkins
Can You Ever Forgive Me? (Fox Searchlight Pictures) – Nicole Holofcener, Jeff Whitty
Best First Feature:
Sorry To Bother You (Annapurna Pictures) – Director: Boots Riley; Producers: Nina Yang Bongiovi, Jonathan Duffy, Charles D. King, George Rush, Forest Whitaker, Kelly Williams
Best First Screenplay:
Eighth Grade (A24) – Bo Burnham
John Cassavetes Award (For best feature made under $500,000):
En El Séptimo Día (The Cinema Guild) – Writer/Director/Producer: Jim McKay; Producers: Alex Bach, Lindsey Cordero, Caroline Kaplan, Michael Stipe
Best International Film:
Roma (Mexico – Netflix) – Director Alfonso Cuarón
Won’t You Be My Neighbor? (Focus Features) – Director/Producer: Morgan Neville Producers: Caryn Capotosto, Nicholas Ma
Best Female Lead:
The Wife (Sony Pictures Classics) – Glenn Close
Best Male Lead:
First Reformed (A24) – Ethan Hawke
Best Supporting Female:
If Beale Street Could Talk (Annapurna Pictures) – Regina King
Best Supporting Male:
Can You Ever Forgive Me? (Fox Searchlight Pictures) – Richard E. Grant
Robert Altman Award:
Suspiria (Amazon Studios) – Director: Luca Guadagnino Casting Directors Avy Kaufman and Stella Savino; Ensemble Cast: Malgosia Bela, Ingrid Caven, Lutz Ebersdorf, Elena Fouina, Mia Goth, Jessica Harper, Dakota Johnson, Gala Moody, Chloë Grace Moretz, Fabrizia Sacchi, Renée Soutendijk, Tilda Swinton, Sylvie Testud, Angela Winkler
Suspiria (Amazon Studios) – Sayombhu Mukdeeprom
Best Editing :
You Were Never Really Here (Amazon Studios) – Joe Bini
Producers Award and Grant:
Someone to Watch Award and Grant:
Sócrates – Director Alex Moratto
Truer Than Fiction Award and Grant:
Minding The Gap – Director Bing Liu
For more information please visit www.filmindependent.org/spirit-awards/