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All the Buzz on Film Festival Awards, Celebrity Tributes and the Film Awards Season.

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Gotham Award Winners Announced In New York


Wednesday, December 3-------On the same day as the Film Independent Spirit Award nominations were announced (cheeky, that), the annual Gotham independent Film Awards were given out in New York City. Winning top honors were FROZEN RIVER by Courtney Hunt as Best Feature Film and TROUBLE THE WATER by Tia Lessin and Carl Deal as Best Documentary.


FROZEN RIVER'S lead actress Melissa Leo also won the Gotham Breakthrough Actor award, and along wih her Film Independent Spirit Award nomination, puts her on a fast track for Oscar and Golden Globe consideration. Lance Hammer took home the Breakthrough Director Award for his feature debut drama BALLAST. The casts of Charlie Kaufman's SYNECDOCHE, NEW YORK and Woody Allen's VICKY CRISTINA BARCELONA shared the Best Ensemble Performance Award.


One of the interesting prizes given out is for Best Film Not Playing At A Theater Near You, acknowledging the many films that have been well received on the film festival circuit but have not yet clinched a distribution deal. This year's winner, was SITA SINGS THE BLUES, a clever animation tale by Nina Paley. The award winner receives a $15,0000 grant and, hopefully, the recognition will eventually lead to a theatrical deal for the film.


In addition to the film awards, the evening was heralded with four tributes. Actress Penelope Cruz was honored for her stellar work, including two striking performances this year in ELEGY and VICKY CRISTINA BARCELONA. Accolades were also given to directors Gus Van Sant (whose MILK has proven to be an indie hit and may figure strongly later in the awards season gold rush) and veteran black director Melvin van Peebles. Sheila Nevins, the head of HBO's Documentary Division was praised for her support for non-fiction film.


In all, 22 films received nominations in the six competitive categories, with juries determining the prizes made up of 18 critics, journalists, and film programmers. Final award recipients were determined by separate juries of writers, directors, actors, producers, casting directors, and composers..

The 18th annual Gotham Independent Film Awards Winners:


Best Feature:
"Frozen River," directed by Courtney Hunt; produced by Heather Rae, Chip Hourihan (Sony Pictures Classics)


Best Documentary:
"Trouble the Water," directed and produced by Tia Lessin & Carl Deal (Zeitgeist Films in association with HBO Documentary Films)


Breakthrough Director Award:
Lance Hammer, director of "Ballast" (Alluvial Film Company)


Breakthrough Actor Award:
Melissa Leo ("Frozen River")


Best Ensemble Performance Award:
"Synecdoche, New York"
Philip Seymour Hoffman, Samantha Morton, Michelle Williams, Catherine Keener, Emily Watson, Dianne Wiest, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Hope Davis and Tom Noonan (Sony Pictures Classics); Casting Director Jeanne McCarthy

tied with

"Vicky Cristina Barcelona"
Scarlett Johansson, Rebecca Hall, Javier Bardem, Penelope Cruz & Patricia Clarkson (The Weinstein Company); Casting Directors Patricia Kerrigan DiCerto & Juliet Taylor


Best Film Not Playing at a Theater Near You:

"Sita Sings the Blues" written, directed and animated by Nina Paley


Sandy Mandelberger, Awards Watch Editor

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