Lee keynotes indie nods

Spirit Awards set for March 21

Spike Lee will present the keynote speech at the Independent Spirit Awards March 21. The filmmaker joins such distinctive film personalities as Oliver Stone, Francis Coppola and Jim Sheridan in addressing the event.

The director of such films as “Do the Right Thing,” “Malcolm X” and “Jungle Fever,” Lee’s debut feature “She’s Gotta Have It” was honored as the best first film by the Spirits in 1987.

His subsequent relationship with the awards has been fractious. Lee went public with his disappointment that “Do the Right Thing” was disqualified in 1990 because it was produced by a studio. Earlier efforts to have him give the keynote were shunted aside by the issue and it would appear that the organization’s decision not to exclude films from the majors two years ago has tempered the relationship.

Ironically, Lee’s critically acclaimed, Oscar-nominated 1997 documentary “4 Little Girls” was excluded from the Spirit Awards’ Truer Than Fiction category, whose 1998 finalists were announced over the weekend. The nominees are “Colors Straight Up,” “Family Name,” “Fast, Cheap & Out of Control,” “Sick: The Life and Death of Bob Flanagan, Supermasochist” and “Soul in the Hole.”

Introduction of the nonfiction category last year followed years of criticism that the event had too great an emphasis on traditional filmmaking. Both the finalists and winner are determined by a jury, and the award comes with an unrestricted $20,000 cash grant sponsored by the Independent Film Channel and Landmark Theaters.

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