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‘Beginners,’ ‘Tree of Life’ tie at Gotham Awards

Focus fares well at Independent kudos

Focus Features emerged the big winner at the 2011 Gotham Independent Film Awards, with its pic “Beginners” scoring two kudos, including a shared trophy for top feature, and drama “Pariah” nabbing one.

Beginners,” Mike Mills’ film about a man’s relationship with his just-out-of-the-closet father, was one half of a rare tie in the feature category. Pic shared the laurel with “The Tree of Life,” the Terrence Malick-directed drama released by Fox Searchlight.

“Beginners” also took home the ensemble thesping award for its cast, led by Ewan McGregor and Christopher Plummer.

Focus’ upcoming “Pariah,” the story of a Brooklyn teen growing into her sexuality, snagged the breakthrough director laurel for helmer Dee Rees.

Gothams’ top doc award went to “Better This World,” Katie Galloway and Kelly Duane de la Vega’s look at a pair of American terrorists, while Felicity Jones took breakthrough actor for her perf in Paramount Vantage’s love story “Like Crazy.”

Ceremony kicked off with an audience award win for “Girlfriend,” writer-helmer Justin Lerner’s Toronto alum about a man with Down’s Syndrome wooing a single mom. Unlike most Gotham categories, winners of which are selected by industry juries, the aud-fave champ was selected by film festivalgoers who voted for the award online.

The Gothams’ annual honor for a film that hasn’t yet found a distributor went to “Scenes of a Crime,” Blue Hadaegh and Grover Babcock’s doc about a disputed confession. Award comes with a one-week run at Gotham’s Museum of Modern Art.

The 21st annual awards, handed out every year by IFP, also included previously announced career tribute laurels to Fox exec Tom Rothman, helmer David Cronenberg and thesps Charlize Theron and Gary Oldman.

Cronenberg, Theron and Oldman all have potential horses in the awards-season races — with Cronenberg’s “A Dangerous Method,” Theron topliner “Young Adult” and Oldman starrer “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy” all vying for kudo attention — as does Rothman via Fox Searchlights pics including “Tree of Life” and “The Descendants.”

Also announced at the ceremony was the winner of the first Calvin Klein Spotlight on Women Filmmakers “Live the Dream” Grant, a $25,000 award for an alum of IFP’s Independent Filmmaker Labs. Laurel went to Lucy Mulloy for pic “Una Noche.”

Complete List of Winners:

Best Feature: Tie between “Beginners” and “The Tree of Life

Best Documentary: “Better this World” by Katie Galloway and Kelly Duane de la Vega

Best Ensemble: “Beginners” – Ewan McGregor, Christopher Plummer, Mélanie Laurent, Goran Visnjic, Kai Lennox, Mary Page Keller, Keegan Boos

Breakthrough Actor: Felicity Jones, “Like Crazy”

Breakthrough Director: Dee Rees, “Pariah”

Best Film Not Playing at a Theater Near You: “Scenes of a Crime” by Blue Hadaegh & Grover Babcock

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