‘The Lost Daughter’ dominates Indie Spirits with 3 wins including Best Feature

The 37th Annual Indie Spirit Awards were at California’s Santa Monica Pier on Sunday, March 6, honoring the best American films made for less than $20 million (foreign films get their own International Feature category). Nominations were selected by film industry insiders and critics, while winners were voted on by the wider Film Independent membership. The organization includes industry professionals but also any movie aficionados who pay for membership starting at $95 per year. So who won? Scroll down for our live blog breaking down all the winners as they’re announced and their significance in this awards season.

The Spirit Awards have often been a preview of the Oscars in recent years as the Oscars have more regularly honored lower-budget films like “Birdman,” “Spotlight,” “Moonlight,” and “Nomadland,” all of which won top honors at both awards. But this year the nominating committee opted mostly for films outside of the Oscar conversation. For only the second time in the last 13 years, none of the Spirit nominees for Best Feature overlap with the Oscar nominees for Best Picture. In fact, “The Lost Daughter” is the only Best Feature nominee up for any Oscars; the other nominees are “A Chiara,” “C’mon C’mon,” “The Novice,” and “Zola.” And Troy Kotsur (“CODA”) and Jessie Buckley (“The Lost Daughter”) are the only two acting nominees here also in contention at the Oscars.

Another difference this year is when the Spirits were scheduled. The awards have typically been held on the weekend of the Oscars. For last year’s haywire COVID-affected awards season, the Spirits were held three days ahead of the Oscars. But these Spirits are three whole weeks before the Academy Awards, giving this group the chance to chime in before academy members vote for their winners starting on March 17. But that would only potentially help the Spirit nominees who overlap with the Oscars, like Kotsur, Buckley, and Maggie Gyllenhaal‘s “Lost Daughter” screenplay, plus the international and documentary films both awards have in common. Follow along below for our takes on the winners. (Times listed are Eastern.)

5:15pmBEST SUPPORTING MALE — The first award of the afternoon goes to Troy Kotsur for “CODA,” as our odds predicted. He was the only Oscar nominee in his category, which often helps because voting being open to all Film Independent members, including those who are not members of the film industry, typically favors the highest-profile nominee in the running. It was more surprising that this was the only Spirit nomination “CODA” received despite the film’s year’s worth of buzz, including the Grand Jury Prize at the 2021 Sundance Film Festival more than a year ago. But it certainly doesn’t hurt Kotsur’s Oscar chances getting another opportunity on an awards stage so shortly after winning at the SAG Awards.

5:25pmJOHN CASSAVETES AWARD — This award for films made for under $500,000 goes to “Shiva Baby,” the breakout comedy made for around $200,000 by writer-director Emma Seligman, who earned a Gotham Award nomination for Breakthrough Director and a Directors Guild Award nomination for Best First-Time Director, so it certainly seems like the money was well spent.

5:31pmBEST DOCUMENTARY — “Summer of Soul” wins this award for first-time director Questlove, and this one could have gone either way. This was the front-runner in our odds, but we forecast a tight race with “Flee.” Both films were acclaimed, both are high-profile projects, and both are Oscar nominees for Best Documentary. Could this be a preview of what’s to come when the academy’s winner is announced in three weeks? Perhaps, but the two awards don’t always line up. Spirit winners “Citizenfour,” “O.J.: Made in America,” and “American Factory” went on to win the Oscar, but last year’s Spirit champ, “Crip Camp,” lost the Oscar to a film that wasn’t nominated by the Spirits, “My Octopus Teacher.”

5:42pmBEST FIRST SCREENPLAY Michael Sarnoski and Vanessa Block win for writing the Nicolas Cage drama “Pig.” This is an upset since “Mass” was the odds-on favorite to win according to our users, but both were high-profile films this awards season. Cage is nominated for a Critics Choice Award, and Sarnoski, like the aforementioned Emma Seligman, is nominated for a Directors Guild Award for Best First-Time Director. Past winners of this category have included David O. Russell, Darren Aronofsky, Charlie Kaufman, Diablo Cody, Lena Dunham, and Bo Burnham, among others.

5:47pmBEST FIRST FEATURE — “7 Days” prevails for filmmakers Roshan Sethi, Liz Cardenas, and Mel Eslyn, another surprise as our odds strongly favored “Test Pattern,” which was previously a multiple nominee at the Gotham Awards. The film tells the story about two people on an arranged date set up by their Indian parents and forced to shelter in place during the COVID-19 pandemic. The film premiered last June at the Tribeca Film Festival, but it opens to general audiences this coming March 25. Prestigious past winners of this prize include Robert Rodriguez, Billy Bob Thornton, Spike Jonze, Kenneth Lonergan, Patty Jenkins, Ryan Coogler, and Olivia Wilde — not bad company to be in.

5:58pmBEST SCREENPLAY — Maggie Gyllenhaal wins for “The Lost Daughter,” as predicted. Her script is the only Oscar nominee in the bunch. Despite being an indie darling for years, this is surprisingly Gyllenhaal’s first Spirit Award. She was previously nominated for acting in “Secretary” and “Happy Endings.” This is her first feature film screenplay, so she could have been considered in that category, but nevertheless this is the second award of the night for a first-time scribe. Gyllenhaal is also nominated for directing and producing the film.

6:05pmBEST SUPPORTING FEMALE Ruth Negga prevails for “Passing.” She was the front-runner in our odds, but it could have been a close race with Jessie Buckley being the only Oscar nominee in the lineup, but Buckley’s Oscar nomination over Negga came as a surprise as Negga had been nominated for SAG and BAFTA Awards. And both of their films were Netflix productions, so they were both pretty high-profile throughout the awards season. How close did Negga come to that Oscar nom? Probably very very close.

6:19pmROBERT ALTMAN AWARD — “Mass” presented with this honorary award by Andrew Garfield, who previously appeared opposite writer-director Fran Kranz in “Death of a Salesman” on Broadway. The award goes to films that inspire great ensemble acting much as Altman’s films did. Kranz shares the honor with Henry Russell Bergstein (casting director), Allison Estrin (casting director), Kagen Albright, Reed Birney, Michelle N. Carter, Ann Dowd, Jason Isaacs, Martha Plimpton, and Breeda Wool. This award has previously gone to “A Serious Man,” “Spotlight,” “Moonlight,” “Marriage Story,” and “One Night in Miami,” among other films.

6:27pmBEST NEW SCRIPTED SERIES — “Reservation Dogs” wins in the second year for TV categories at the Spirit Awards. The FX on  Hulu comedy about contemporary Native American life was co-created by Sterlin Harjo and Taika Waititi. The show won the equivalent award at the Gotham Awards last fall. Last year this Spirit Award went to “I May Destroy You” before it went on to win an Emmy.

6:36pmBEST NEW NON-SCRIPTED/DOCUMENTARY SERIES — “Black and Missing” prevails. The HBO Documentary Films series produced by Soledad O’Brien explores the lack of attention and care given to Black missing persons. It won against “Philly D.A.,” which won the equivalent award at the Gotham Awards last fall. Last year the award went to Netflix’s “Immigration Nation.”

6:42pmBEST MALE PERFORMANCE IN A NEW SCRIPTED SERIES — “Squid Game” continues its awards winning streak by claiming this prize for Lee Jung-jae just a week after he upset a trio of “Succession” actors to win at the SAG Awards.

6:50pmBEST FEMALE PERFORMANCE IN A NEW SCRIPTED SERIES — Another repeat from the Gotham Awards: Thuso Mbedu prevails for her leading role in “The Underground Raiload.” She was also nominated by the Television Critics Association and the Critics Choice Awards.

7:12pmBEST DIRECTOR — Maggie Gyllenhaal is two-for-two at the Spirit Awards. She now takes this prize for “The Lost Daughter,” presented to her by last year’s Spirit and Oscar winner Chloe Zhao (“Nomadland”). She has one last category tonight, Best Feature, where she’s nominated as a producer of “Lost Daughter.” As this is also Gyllenhaal’s feature directing debut, that means three of the DGA nominees for Best First-Time Director have won tonight: Gyllenhaal, Seligman, and Sarnoski.

7:23pmBEST FEMALE LEAD — Every nominee in this category was a first-time, and the winner is Taylour Paige for “Zola.” There were no Oscar nominees in this category, but as “Zola” dominated the nominations with seven, Paige rose to the top as our front-runner in this category. This performance also earned her a nomination at the Gotham Awards, and last year she appeared in the Oscar-nominated “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom.”

7:31pmBEST INTERNATIONAL FEATURE — As announced on Film Independent’s Twitter, “Drive My Car” wins this category, not a surprise as it’s the only Oscar nominee in the bunch — an Oscar nominee for Best Picture and Best Director (Ryusuke Hamaguchi), no less.  This film swept the NY, LA, and National Society critics prizes for Best Film, plus the Gotham Award, so this is no surprise, but this also continues the tradition of the strongest Oscar contender typically winning at the Spirit Awards.

7:39pmBEST MALE LEAD Simon Rex (“Red Rocket”) wins on his first ever nomination, and the announcer makes sure to clarify that he used be a pornographic actor and an MTV VJ. On-stage, Rex admits that his career was “in the toilet” before director Sean Baker recruited him for this film. This performance also earned Rex nominations from the Gotham Awards as well as Chicago and Indiana film critics. He won the Los Angeles Film Critics Association award and was a runner-up for the National Society of Film Critics.

7:48pmBEST FEATURE — Maggie Gyllenhaal completes her sweep with a victory for “The Lost Daughter” which ends the show with three wins out of its four nominations: Feature, Director, and Screenplay. Its only loss was Best Supporting Female. Again, as the only Oscar-nominated film in the running for this award, it was the automatic favorite to win, though two years ago the Spirits did give this award to “The Farewell” over the Oscar-nominated “Marriage Story.”

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