There’s something beautiful about the determination of Film Independent, the nonprofit organization, and their absolute determination to help foster storytellers. They have been about diversity and inclusion for 30 years—30 years, and that was before a person could be canceled by the power of a hashtag. It’s because of that vision and grit that I remain a firm supporter of the organization.
This year, comedian Hasan Minhaj hosted the Indie Spirit Awards, and from my view inside the tent, on the Santa Monica pier, he bombed. Sorry, my brother, I am taking this statement from the groans of the assembled and then the cricket silence when joke after joke failed to land.
But Minhaj is one of the brightest minds working in the industry today and he did bring up a few issues that did deserve contemplation, the biggest elephant in the room being the fact that the IFC cable channel (which broadcasted the show in past years) did not renew their contract.
Instead, the annual Indie Spirit Awards was broadcast live on IMDb’s YouTube channel, as well as Film Independent’s YouTube and Twitter accounts.
Minhaj’s acid comments continued with the comic/host dragging the industry outlet Deadline, accusing them of creating headlines that feel and act like “clickbait.” The host asked nominee Cate Blanchett to make “some unhinged expressions” for the cameras to generate “clickbait thumbnail” photos for the show’s YouTube broadcast. Her response: She literally hid under her table to avoid taking part in the routine, which might be an awards show first. Minhaj asked, “Is she coming out the other end?” but Blanchett continued hiding.
This year’s ceremony, the 38th in Film Independent’s history, was marked by a number of firsts. Most notable was a switch to gender-neutral acting categories, as well as the introduction of a Best Breakthrough Performance award.
Leading the way among the award winners was “Everything Everywhere All at Once,” which ended the ceremony with seven wins. These included Best Feature, Best Director, and Best Screenplay for Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert; Best Lead Performance, Michelle Yeoh; Best Supporting Performance, Ke Huy Quan; Best Breakthrough Performance, Stephanie Hsu; and Best Editing, Paul Rogers.
Among the other films and artists honored, “Aftersun” won Best First Feature; John Patton Ford, Best First Screenplay for “Emily the Criminal”; Florian Hoffmeister of “TÁR,” Best Cinematography; “Joyland,” Best International Film; and “All the Beauty and the Bloodshed,” Best Documentary.
For the third time in its history, this year’s Spirit Awards also honored exceptional content in television. This year’s major winners in the TV categories were “The Bear,” which won Best New Scripted Series and Best Supporting Performance in a New Scripted Series for Ayo Edebiri; “The Rehearsal,” Best New Non-Scripted or Documentary Series; Quinta Brunson of “Abbott Elementary,” Best Lead Performance in a New Scripted Series; and “Pachinko,” Best Ensemble Cast in a New Scripted Series.
The 15th annual Robert Altman Award, which was created in 2008 in honor of legendary film director Robert Altman, who was known for creating extraordinary ensemble casts, went to “Women Talking” director Sarah Polley, with casting directors John Buchan and Jason Knight, as well as ensemble cast members Shayla Brown, Jessie Buckley, Claire Foy, Kira Guloien, Kate Hallett, Judith Ivey, Rooney Mara, Sheila McCarthy, Frances McDormand, Michelle McLeod, Liv McNeil, August Winter, and Ben Whishaw.
Also celebrated were “The Cathedral” with the John Cassavetes Award, given to the best feature made for under $1 million (raised from $500,000 in previous years); Nikyatu Jusu of “Nanny,” Someone to Watch Award, recognizing a filmmaker of singular vision who has not yet received appropriate recognition; Reid Davenport of “I Didn’t See You There,” Truer Than Fiction Award, presented to an emerging director of nonfiction features who has yet to receive significant recognition; and Tory Lenosky, Producers Award, which honors emerging producers who demonstrate the creativity, tenacity and vision required to produce quality independent films with limited resources.
The winners of the Film Independent Spirit Awards are voted on by Film Independent members. Membership is open to the public.
In the winners’ room, Best Lead Performance in a New Scripted Series winner Quinta Brunson, “Abbott Elementary” (ABC), was asked what has kept her grounded as her career continues to rise. “Family, friends, tragedy,” the Indie Spirit winner replied. “I’ve had a lot of death in my life as all this has been going on and that will keep you grounded big time, and having to literally work and having to think about the next season of ‘Abbott [Elementary].’”
For more info and a complete list of the winners, visit www.filmindependent.org