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Independent Spirit struggles to be indie

At the Independent Spirit Awards which warm up the Oscars, 12 Years a Slave went in with seven nominations, Nebraska with six – but only one converted multiple nominations into gongs

12 Years a Slave took home Best Film, Director, Screenplay, Cinematography, and Supporting Female, while Nebraska had to be content with the Best First Screenplay gong.

“Independent” is an extremely loose term in Hollywood and, increasingly, at the Independent Spirit Awards. When a film’s producers include Brad Pitt and have 13 Oscars nominations between them, when the film’s worldwide box office take of over $130+ million, is it independent? In Hollywood, of course it is!

Pitt himself was conscious of the contradictions, saying at the awards, “The cold reality is that this was a hard movie to get made. The risk was me being a distraction.”

The only regular winners during this year’s awards season not among the nominees at the Spirit bash were Gravity and its lead Sandra Bullock. Perhaps her reported $70 million payday was a little too rich for indie tastes.

However, the Spirit Awards support Film Independent and an ongoing programme of events, including the annual Los Angeles Film Festival. A listers, the attention and dollars their attendance delivers, are very welcome indeed.

The winners were:

Best Feature
12 Years A Slave

Best First Feature
Fruitvale Station, Ryan Coogler

John Cassavetes Award
(Best Feature Under $500,000)
This Is Martin Bonner, Writer/Director: Chad Hartigan

Best Director
Steve McQueen, 12 Years A Slave

Best Screenplay
John Ridley, 12 Years A Slave

Best First Screenplay
Bob Nelson, Nebraska

Best Cinematography
Sean Bobbitt, 12 Years A Slave

Best Editing
Nat Sanders, Short Term 12

Best Male Lead
Matthew McConaughey, Dallas Buyers Club

Best Female Lead
Cate Blanchett, Blue Jasmine

Best Supporting Male
Jared Leto, Dallas Buyers Club

Best Supporting Female
Lupita Nyong’o, 12 Years A Slave

Best International Film
Blue Is The Warmest Color (France), Director: Abdellatif Kechiche

Best Documentary
20 Feet From Stardom, Director/Producer: Morgan Neville

Robert Altman Award
Mud, Director: Jeff Nichols

17th Annual Piaget Producers Award
Emerging Producer(s)
Toby Halbrooks & James M. Johnston

20th Annual Someone To Watch Award
Shaka King, director of Newlyweeds

19th Annual Stella Artois Truer Than Fiction Award
Emerging Director(s) of Non-Fiction Features
Jason Osder, director of Let The Fire Burn