“Ballast,” the Sundance standout that was self-distributed after a deal with IFC fell through, led the field with four nominations in the Gotham Independent Film Awards.

Lance Hammer’s pic is up for best feature, breakthrough director, breakthrough actor and ensemble performance.

Six pics earned two noms apiece, including “Afterschool,” “Frozen River,” “Rachel Getting Married,” “Synecdoche, New York,” “Vicky Cristina Barcelona” and “The Visitor.”

Noms were announced Monday morning.

The 18th Gotham Independent Film Awards (renamed from the Gotham Awards) will be held Dec. 2 at Cipriani Wall Street.

While the Gothams remain a popular fixture on the film biz’s fall calendar, questions of identity have nagged recent editions. Just as the indie film world itself has undergone major shifts, the Gothams’ focus has swung from studio fare like “The Departed” and “Marie Antoinette” to last year’s little-seen top winner “Great Wall of Sound.”

“Ballast,” released Oct. 1 under Hammer’s Alluvial Film Co. banner, has grossed $33,043 in the U.S.

The six Gotham categories this year recognize 22 nominees, the result of voting by 18 critics, journalists and programmers.

“Contradicting the doom and gloom stories about the state of independent film, 2008 has proven to be an extremely strong year for an immensely diverse group of filmmakers,” said IFP exec director Michelle Byrd. Nearly half of the nominated pics were directed by first-timers, she noted.

As previously announced, tribute awards will be presented to Penelope Cruz, HBO doc czarina Sheila Nevins and filmmakers Gus Van Sant and Melvin Van Peebles.

And the nominess are:

“Ballast” – Lance Hammer, director; Lance Hammer, Nina Parikh, producers (Alluvial Film Company)
“Frozen River” – Courtney Hunt, director; Heather Rae, Chip Hourihan, producers (Sony Pictures Classics)
“Synecdoche, New York” – Charlie Kaufman, director; Anthony Bregman, Charlie Kaufman, Spike Jonze, Sidney Kimmel, producers (Sony Pictures Classics)
“The Visitor” – Tom McCarthy, director; Mary Jane Skalski, Michael London, producers (Overture Films)
“The Wrestler” – Darren Aronofsky, director; Scott Franklin, Darren Aronofsky, producers (Fox Searchlight Pictures)

“Chris & Don: A Love Story” – Guido Santi & Tina Mascara, directors; Julia Scott, Tina Mascara, Guido Santi, James White, producers (Zeitgeist Films)
“Encounters at the End of the World” – Werner Herzog, director; Henry Kaiser, producer (THINKFilm / Image Entertainment)
“Man on Wire” – James Marsh, director; Simon Chinn, producer (Magnolia Pictures)
“Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired” – Maria Zenovich, director; Jeffrey Levy-Hinte, Lila Yacoub, Marina Zenovich, producers (THINKFilm in association with HBO Documentaries)
“Trouble the Water” – Tia Lessin & Carl Deal, producers/directors (Zeitgeist Films)

“Ballast” – Micheal J. Smith, Sr., JimMyron Ross, Tarra Riggs, Johnny McPhail (Alluvial Film Company)
“Rachel Getting Married” – Anne Hathaway, Rosemarie DeWitt, Bill Irwin, Tunde Adebimpe, Mather Zickel, Anna Deavere Smith, Anisa George, Debra Winger (Sony Pictures Classics)
“Synecdoche, New York” – Philip Seymour Hoffman, Samantha Morton, Michelle Williams, Catherine Keener, Emily Watson, Dianne Wiest, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Hope Davis, Tom Noonan (Sony Pictures Classics)
“Vicky Cristina Barcelona” – Scarlett Johansson, Rebecca Hall, Javier Bardem, Penelope Cruz (The Weinstein Company)
“The Visitor” – Richard Jenkins, Hiam Abbas, Haaz Sleiman, Danai Gurira (Overture Films)

Antonio Campos for “Afterschool”
Dennis Dortch for “A Good Day to Be Black & Sexy” (Magnolia Pictures)
Lance Hammer for “Ballast” (Alluvial Film Company)
Barry Jenkins for “Medicine for Melancholy “(IFC Films)
Alex Rivera for “Sleep Dealer” (Maya Releasing)

Pedro Castaneda in “August Evening” (Maya Releasing)
Rosemarie DeWitt in “Rachel Getting Married” (Sony Pictures Classics)
Rebecca Hall in “Vicky Cristina Barcelona” (The Weinstein Company)
Melissa Leo in “Frozen River “(Sony Pictures Classics)
Alejandro Polanco in “Chop Shop” (Koch Lorber Films)
Micheal J. Smith, Sr. in “Ballast” (Alluvial Film Company)

“Afterschool” – Antonio Campos, director; Josh Mond, Sean Durkin, producers
“Meadowlark” – Taylor Greeson, producer/director
“The New Year Parade” – Tom Quinn, director; Steve Beal, Tom Quinn, producers
Sita Sings the Blues – Nina Paley, producer/director
“Wellness” – Jake Mahaffy, director; Jake Mahaffy, Jeff Clark, producers