Searchlight’s Nomadland won the marquee Best Feature category on Thursday to cap the 36th annual Film Independent Spirit Awards, the final big awards show ahead of Sunday’s Oscars. The Chloé Zhao film, a frontrunner all movie-awards season, won a leading four trophies tonight in the virtual ceremony, including Director and Editing for Zhao and Cinematography for Joshua James Richards.
“In our film Bob Wells says to Fern that you’ve come to the right place to connect with your tribe, your community and independent film you are our community,” producer Mollye Asher said during the Nomadland team’s acceptance speech. Added fellow producer Dan Janvey: “We couldn’t have done it without all the hearts and hands of our fellow collaborators, our fellow filmmakers, who were the Nomadland Company, so to all of you we accept this on your behalf.”
The marquee indie-focused awards show hosted by a very busy Melissa Villaseñor from SNL (her interstitial skits included impressions of everyone from Owen Wilson to Billie Eilish) also handed out three awards to Amazon Studios’ Sound of Metal, including to Riz Ahmed for Best Lead Actor, Paul Raci for Supporting Actor and Best First Feature for director Darius Marder and his producers.
Raci, who signed throughout his acceptance speech, might have given the best advice to the indie-focused audience during the ceremony, which aired live on IFC and AMC+. “Don’t quit your day job, I never did,” the journeyman actor said, smiling. “I still have it too.”
Carey Mulligan took the Lead Actress prize for Focus Features’ Promising Young Woman, edging out the likes of Frances McDormand and Viola Davis in the category. Promising Young Woman also picked up the Screenplay prize for writer-director Emerald Fennell. Fennell and Zhao will face off in the Directors race at Sunday’s Oscars.
Searchlight, Amazon Studios and Netflix tied for the most wins by distributor on the night with four apiece.
Minari‘s Yuh-jung Youn was named Supporting Actress to solidify her frontrunner status for Sunday. Netflix’s Crip Camp won the Documentary Award, with Nicole Newnham thanking her executive producers Barack and Michelle Obama.
“I think that the film that Nicole and I and Sarah made proves that authentic stories are things that people really, really want to see, but it really took people with disabilities working on the film to really represent us in a light that we’ve really rarely been seen in,” fellow director Jim LeBrecht said.
Other winners tonight included Andy Siara winning Best First Screenplay for Palm Springs, while Amazon’s One Night in Miami director Regina King and the ensemble cast was honored with the Robert Altman Award.
The Spirits introduced five new TV categories this year, and HBO’s smash I May Destroy You won Best New Scripted Series to go along with a previously announced Ensemble award, while Netflix’s Unorthodox stars Shira Haas and Amit Rahav swept the Female and Male Performance in a Scripted Series honors, respectively.
I May Destroy You’s Ensemble honor was presented by Phoebe Waller-Bridge, who said Michaela Coel’s HBO show “took television to a new level… gave us perspectives so rarely seen on our screens…naked humanity, while each being at times a hero and a villain in their own stories.”
Said Coel: “If I could convey to people watching that they’re not alone, that they should be kind to themselves, that would be a dream come true.”
Here’s the full winners list:
BEST FEMALE LEAD
Carey Mulligan, Promising Young Woman
SOMEONE TO WATCH AWARD
(The Someone to Watch Award recognizes a talented filmmaker of singular vision who has not yet received appropriate recognition)
Director of Farewell Amor
BEST MALE LEAD
Riz Ahmed, Sound of Metal
(The Producers Award honors emerging producers who, despite highly limited resources, demonstrate the creativity, tenacity and vision required to produce quality independent films)
Chloé Zhao, Nomadland
BEST NEW NON-SCRIPTED OR DOCUMENTARY SERIES
Executive Producers: Christina Clusiau, Shaul Schwarz, Dan Cogan, Jenny Raskin, Brandon Hill, Christian Thompson
Co-Executive Producers: Andrey Alistratov, Jay Arthur Sterrenberg, Lauren Haber
JOHN CASSAVETES AWARD
Writer/Director: Merawi Gerima
Joshua James Richards, Nomadland
BEST INTERNATIONAL FILM
QUO VADIS, AIDA? (Bosnia and Herzegovina)
Director: Jasmila Žbanić
Chloé Zhao, Nomadland
BEST ENSEMBLE CAST IN A NEW SCRIPTED SERIES
I MAY DESTROY YOU
Cast: Michaela Coel, Paapa Essiedu, Weruche Opia, Stephen Wight
BEST MALE PERFORMANCE IN A NEW SCRIPTED SERIES
Amit Rahav, Unorthodox
BEST FEMALE PERFORMANCE IN A NEW SCRIPTED SERIES
Shira Haas, Unorthodox
BEST NEW SCRIPTED SERIES
I MAY DESTROY YOU
Creator/Executive Producer: Michaela Coel
Executive Producers: Phil Clarke, Roberto Troni
ROBERT ALTMAN AWARD
ONE NIGHT IN MIAMI
Director: Regina King
Casting Directors: Kimberly R. Hardin
Ensemble Cast: Kingsley Ben-Adir, Eli Goree, Aldis Hodge, Leslie Odom Jr.
Emerald Fennell, Promising Young Woman
Directors/Producers: Jim LeBrecht, Nicole Newnham
Producer: Sara Bolder
BEST SUPPORTING MALE
Paul Raci, Sound of Metal
TRUER THAN FICTION AWARD
Director of Pier Kids
BEST FIRST FEATURE
SOUND OF METAL
Director: Darius Marder
Producers: Bill Benz, Kathy Benz, Bert Hamelinck, Sacha Ben Harroche
BEST FIRST SCREENPLAY
Andy Siara, Palm Springs
BEST SUPPORTING FEMALE
Yuh-jung Youn, Minari