Moonlight director Barry Jenkins has dominated this year’s Independent Spirit Awards – the Santa Monica ceremony that honours, as its name suggests, American films that don’t come from the major US Studios.
If Beale Street Could Talk, the period drama about a miscarriage of justice carried out against the back drop of racism in New York, was named the Best Feature, with Jenkins beating three female nominees – as well as veteran Paul Schrader – to the Best Director prize. One of its stars, Regina King, was also named the Best Supporting Actress, a day ahead of the Oscars, where she’s up for the same honour.
The Best Actress prize went to the hot favourite for the Oscars, Glenn Close, for The Wife.
The men’s awards are likely to have less bearing on the Academy Awards with the Best Actor going to Ethan Hawke for First Reformed – a role that’s not in contention for an Oscar – and the Best Supporting Actor going to Richard E Grant for his career-marking role in Can You Ever Forgive Me?
The veteran British star has been in contention at all the major competitions during the current Awards Season, but at the Golden Globes, Screen Actors Guild and even at the British Academy BAFTAs, he’s missed out to Green Book’s Mahershala Ali, who wasn’t in contention here because the film was a studio picture.
Winning his first major film award at the age of 61, Grant said he felt “absolutely astonished and emotional” to have won in a role for which he had been the third choice, suggesting that his casting was “arbitrary and it’s luck”.
Noting that his character is diagnosed with HIV during the film, Grant said his role was an homage to men wiped out by that disease and his performance was inspired by a family friend, the Scottish star of Chariots of Fire Ian Charleson, who died at the age of 40, having been disagnosed with AIDS.
The film also took the Best Screenplay prize, while the Best First Screenplay award went to Bo Burnham for Eighth Grade, which also won him the Writers Guild Award last week, even though he missed out on an Oscar nomination.
Another Oscar nominee to take home a Spirit Award is Alfonso Cuarón, who’s Spanish-language Mexican drama Roma beat The Favourite to the Best International Film prize. Praising the increasing diversity in Hollywood, collecting his award, Cuarón joked that the category could soon become obsolete.
Other awards saw the Best Documentary prize go to Won’t You Be My Neighbor?, about the legacy of the American TV host Fred Rogers and the Truer Than Fiction Award – presented to an emerging documentary maker – go to Bing Lie for Minding the Gap. Boots Riley won the Best First Feature for his dark comedy Sorry To Bother You.
The Independent Spirit Awards are handed out every year, the day before the Oscars, at a relaxed lunch in a marquee beside Santa Monica beach. The awards are voted for by about six thousand members of the Film Independent organisation, which comprises film-makers, critics and other industry insiders.