Spotlight took home the most trophies at the 2016 Film Independent Spirit Awards, garnering awards for best feature, best director, best screenplay and best editing. The film also received the 9th annual Robert Altman Award, given to one film’s director, casting director and ensemble cast. Director Tom McCarthy was honored along with casting directors Kerry Barden and Paul Schnee and ensemble cast members Michael Cyril Creighton, Billy Crudup, Paul Giulfoyle, Neal Huff, Brian D’Arcy James, Michael Keaton, Rachel McAdams, Mark Ruffalo, Liev Schreiber, Jamey Sheridan, John Slattery and Stanley Tucci.
Two awards each went to Beasts of No Nation, which won best male lead and best supporting male and Room, which won best female lead and best first screenplay. Tangerine won best supporting female; The Look of Silence won best documentary; Son of Saul, won best international film.
Held Feb. 27 on the beach in Santa Monica, the Spirit Awards celebrated artist-driven films made with an economy of means by filmmakers whose films embodied diversity, innovation and uniqueness of vision. In his introduction ahead of the show, which aired live on IFC, Film Independent president, Josh Welsh commented on the courage required to make an independent film, thanking the financiers, crowdfunders, publicists, and others who support filmmakers in bringing their visions to the screen.
In receiving her best actress award, Larson personally thanked editor Nathan Nugent, saying, “I know my performance would not be as good without your hand.” She also remarked that as a leading character in the film, the room informed her performance. She acknowledged the attention to detail of production designer Ethan Tobman. “He had Jacob and I make the toys that you see in room. Everyday we would build toys. It was our first time getting to know each other. It was so incredible to use those toys as a way for us to bond,” revealed Larson.
Cinematographer Ed Lachman, who received the cinematography award for his lensing of Carol, noted that the writer created the poetic framework for the film. The cinematography did not take its inspiration from the cinematography of the period, but rather looked to still photos from 1949-1953, in particular early ektachrome color slides from female photographers.
In talking about the transition of Room from the page to the screen, screenwriter Emma Donoghue stated, “Everyone, not just the actors, contributed so much. Costume design, production design, it wasn’t all that I planned in my head. It was a whole new world. In the book, Jack is a 5-year-old boy, so he doesn’t notice things like the décor. A camera shows us things that the child never would have. It completely expanded the story.”
Josh Singer, who shared the best screenplay award with Spotlight director McCarthy spoke about the opportunity that the film afforded “to shine the light on the importance of local journalism.”
Son of Saul director László Nemes – with his cast and crew of seven different nationalities – was the first Hungarian filmmaker to garner a Spirit Award. He received honors for the best international film with a personal story that drew upon the history of his own family during the Holocaust.
The 2016 Roger and Chaz Ebert Foundation Fellowship, which includes a cash grant of $10,000, was awarded to Zimbabwean filmmaker Sue-Ellen Chitunya. This annual award is given to a filmmaker currently participating in a Film Independent Artist Development program with the mission of diversity in mind. Chitunya, a participant in Project Involve, is currently in active development as a producer on her first narrative feature film, A Hard Place.
This year’s Spirit Award winners are:
Best Feature: Spotlight
Producers: Blye Pagon Faust, Steve Golin, Nicole Rocklin, Michael Sugar
Best Director: Tom McCarthy, Spotlight
Best Screenplay: Tom McCarthy, Josh Singer, Spotlight
Best First Feature: The Diary of a Teenage Girl
Director: Marielle Heller
Producers: Miranda Bailey, Anne Carey, Bert Hamelinck, Madeline Samit
Best First Screenplay: Emma Donoghue, Room (A24)
John Cassavetes Award (For best feature made under $500,000): Krisha
Writer/Director/Producer: Trey Edward Shults
Producers: Justin R. Chan, Chase Joliet, Wilson Smith
Best Supporting Female: Mya Taylor, Tangerine
Best Supporting Male: Idris Elba, Beasts of No Nation
Best Female Lead: Brie Larson, Room
Best Male Lead: Abraham Attah, Beasts of No Nation
Robert Altman Award: Spotlight
Director: Tom McCarthy
Casting Directors: Kerry Barden, Paul Schnee Ensemble
Cast: Billy Crudup, Michael Cyril Creighton, Paul Guilfoyle, Neal Huff, Brian d’Arcy James, Michael Keaton, Rachel McAdams, Mark Ruffalo, Liev Schreiber, Jamey Sheridan, John Slattery, Stanley Tucci
Best Cinematography: Ed Lachman, Carol
Best Editing: Tom McArdle, Spotlight
Best International Film: Son of Saul (Hungary)
Director: László Nemes
Best Documentary: The Look of Silence
Director: Joshua Oppenheimer
Producer: Signe Byrge Sørensen