Film Independent Grants Go to ‘The Fits,’ ‘Hooligan Sparrow’ Directors

Ava DuVernay Jeff Nichols
REX/Shutterstock

Jordana Mollick, Anna Rose Holmer and Nanfu Wang were each awarded $25,000 grants Saturday at Film Independent’s Spirit Awards brunch.

The event, held at Boa restaurant in West Hollywood, takes place a month and a half before the Spirit Awards ceremonies on Feb. 25 in a tent on Santa Monica Beach.

Mollick, a producer on “Hello, My Name is Doris,” won the Piaget Producers award, which goes to a producer who demonstrates “creativity, tenacity and vision” on a limited budget. Finalists for the award were Lisa KjerulffMelody C. Roscher and Craig Shilowich.

Holmer, director of “The Fits,” received the Kiehl’s Someone to Watch award, which recognizes talented filmmakers of singular vision who have not yet received appropriate recognition. Finalists for the award were Andrew Ahn, director of “Spa Night”; Claire Carre, director of “Embers”; and Ingrid Jungermann, director of “Women Who Kill.”

Holmer told Variety on the red carpet that the $200,000 film was funded entirely by grants and shot in 20 days in Cincinnati. The story centers on an 11-year-old girl who’s caught up in danger after becoming involved with a dance troupe.

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“It was so satisfying that I received so much help in making this film,” Holmer said.

Wang, director of “Hooligan Sparrow,” received the Truer Than Fiction award, presented to an emerging director of non-fiction features who has not received significant recognition. Finalists for the award were Kristi Jacobson, director of “Solitary,” and Sara Jordenö, director of “Kiki.”

The film follows activist Ye Haiyan, aka Sparrow, who seeks justice for six elementary school girls who were sexually abused by their principal.

The event drew dozens of the nominees, including Ava DuVernay, who’s up for the documentary “13th.” She’s in the midst of directing Disney’s “Wrinkle in Time” but said it was crucial to show support for independent films.

“I’m a board member of Film Independent so I just had come out today,” she said on the red carpet. “I’ve been feeling constricted politically.”

Viggo Mortensen, nominated for “Captain Fantastic,” said that the Spirit Awards are valuable for their recognition of less-visible films. “Captain Fantastic” debuted at Sundance in January and was released by Bleecker Street in July.

“We’ve helped keep it alive with hundreds of screenings and Q&As,” he added.

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