The 16th annual Independent Spirit Awards found the Independent Feature Project/West’s annual celebration of American independent film expanding its traditional geographic boundaries to include the Taiwan/U.S. co-production Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, the March 24 event’s big winner. Ang Lee’s language-barrier-breaking martial arts epic won all three awards for which it had been nominated: Best Feature, Best Director for Lee, and Best Supporting Female for Zhang Ziyi.
Except for Zhang, all winners in the top six categories are also nominated for Academy Awards. Best Male Lead went to Javier Bardem for his work as gay Cuban writer Reinaldo Arenas in the biopic Before Night Falls, directed by Julian Schnabel. Ellen Burstyn, who has earned many critics association kudos this awards season for her performance as a diet pill addict in Darren Aronofsky’s bleak Requiem for a Dream, added the Best Female Lead trophy to her collection. The award for Best Supporting Male was given to Willem Dafoe’s acclaimed performance as ultimate method actor Max Schreck in E. Elias Merhige’s speculative Shadow of the Vampire. Kenneth Lonergan’s much-lauded script for his sibling drama You Can Count on Me was named Best Screenplay; the film itself was also named Best First Feature.
Requiem collected a second award, for Matthew Libatique’s cinematography. Requiem’s distributor, Artisan Entertainment, added another Spirit Award to its credit with the Best Feature Under $500,000 winner, the strange Miguel Arteta-directed, Mike White-scripted comedy of obsessive friendship, Chuck & Buck. Other buzzed-about selections in last year’s Sundance Film Festival were also honored: Karyn Kusama’s jury prize-winning female boxing drama Girlfight, was recognized when lead Michelle Rodriguez won the award for Best Debut Performance; and Gina Prince-Bythewood won Best First Screenplay for her sports-themed romance Love & Basketball.
Spirit Award voters clearly landed on the “love it” side for Lars von Trier’s musical melodrama Dancer in the Dark, giving the polarizing Cannes prizewinner the Best Foreign Film award. The somewhat similarly titled Dark Days, Marc Singer’s non-fiction account of abandoned subway tunnel dwellers, was named Best Documentary.
Unrestricted cash grants of $20,000 as well as trophies were given to the winners of three special awards designed to recognize and nurture up-and-coming talent. The Motorola Producers Award was given to Paul S. Mezey, producer of The Ballad of Ramblin’ Jack and Spring Forward. This year’s Movado Someone to Watch Award, given to a fiction feature director, was won by Marc Forster, director of Everything Put Together. The sibling team of David and Laurie Gwen Shapiro were the documentary filmmakers honored with the DirecTV/IFC Truer Than Fiction Award.
* = winner
FIRST FEATURE over $500,000
FEATURE under $500,000
- Bunny - Mia Trachinger, director
- *Chuck & Buck - Miguel Arteta, director
- Everything Put Together - Marc Forster, director
- Groove - Greg Harrison, director
- Our Song - Jim McKay, director
- *Dancer in the Dark - Lars von Trier, director (Denmark)
- In the Mood for Love - Wong Kar-Wai, director (Hong Kong)
- The Terrorist - Santosh Sivan, director (India)
- A Time for Drunken Horses - Bahman Ghobadi, director (Iran)
- The War Zone - Tim Roth, director (England)
- *Dark Days - Marc Singer, director
- The Eyes of Tammy Faye - Randy Barbato & Fenton Bailey, directors
- Long Night's Journey into Day - Frances Reid & Deborah Hoffmann, directors
- Paragraph 175 - Rob Epstein & Jeffrey Friedman, directors
- Sound and Fury - Josh Aronson, director
DirecTV/IFC TRUER THAN FICTION AWARD
- Benjamin Smoke - Jem Cohen & Peter Sillen, directors
- Just Melvin - James Ronald Whitney, director
- *Keep the River on Your Right: A Modern Cannibal Tale - David Shapiro & Laurie Gwen Shapiro, directors
- Pie in the Sky: The Bridgid Berlin Story - Vincent Fremont & Shelly Dunn Fremont, directors
Movado SOMEONE TO WATCH AWARD
- *Marc Forster, Everything Put Together
- Dan McCormack, Other Voices
- Mia Trachinger, Bunny
Motorola PRODUCERS AWARD
- *Paul S. Mezey, The Ballad of Ramblin' Jack / Spring Forward
- Jim McKay, American Movie / Our Song
- Tim Perell, Louis and Frank / The Myth of Fingerprints
- Diana E. Williams, Love Machine / Our Song
Inside the 16th Annual Independent Spirit Awards
16th Annual Independent Spirit Award Winners/© Michael Dequina