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Indie Talents Honored At Film Independent Spirit Awards

The Film Independent Spirit Awards, held in a tent on the beach at Santa Monica on Saturday, are kind of the “indie Oscars”. Some of the nominees and winners are also up for Oscar gold, but there are refreshingly new names and talents on the roster, from films that have received little or no distribution. The Awards Ceremony, which is broadcast live on cable networks AMC and IFC, gives these newcomers a chance to get some name recognition, and in the case of many, an open door to agents and financiers. Rainn Wilson, the stand up comic who had a featured role in JUNO and stars as one of the ensemble cast of the television hit series THE OFFICE, was the irreverent master of ceremonies. As he stepped out onto the stage, he greeted the crowd with a beguiling “Greetings, indie weirdos!”.

The big winner of the awards event was this year’s “indie that could” JUNO, by Jason Reitman. The film, about a wisecracking teenage girl who gives her baby up for adoption, took home awards for Best Feature Film, Best Female Lead (Ellen Page) and a Best First Screenplay Award for Diablo Cody. Joining JUNO in the winners circle were double awards for THE DIVING BELL AND THE BUTTERFLY, I’M NOT THERE and THE SAVAGES.

THE SAVAGES, which premiered at the 2007 Sundance Film Festival, won two major awards: Best Screenplay (Tamara Jenkins) and Best Actor (Philip Seymour Hoffman). THE DIVING BELL AND THE BUTTERFLY was honored for its director Julian Schnabel and for its cinematographer Janusz Kaminski. "The idea that it is an independent spirit is a good thing," Schnabel told the crowd, wearing his signature pajamas suit with a long overcoat. Schnabel acknowledged those who have worked with him over the years, singling out producer Jon Kilik. "There are so many people in this room who I admire that I don't know... this is a nice community of people who have been very generous with me, and I appreciate that. Thank you.”

I’M NOT THERE, the multi-character homage to Bob Dylan by director Todd Haynes won the Robert Altman Award, given to the film’s director, casting director and ensemble cast. Cate Blanchett, who played Dylan in the early 1960s, won the award for Best Supporting Actress.


The award for Best Foreign Film went to ONCE, from Irish director John Carney. "This is amazing to start making a little film for $100,000 with your mates in Dublin," he said. "I guess that's independent film." The film beat out such major contenders as 4 MONTHS, 3 WEEKS AND 2 DAYS and PERSEPOLIS.

For the full list of winners, log on to: http://www.filmindependent.org/spiritawards

Sandy Mandelberger, Awards Watch Editor on fest21.com

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