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’12 Years a Slave’ Leads Gotham Independent Film Awards Nominations

New best actor and actress races add star power to this year's gala

12 Years a Slave” landed three Gotham Independent Film Award nominations on Thursday morning, leading all other movies, in a nod to its growing momentum as awards season kicks off.

The Fox Searchlight drama that opened to rave reviews last week earned nods in the best feature, best actor (Chiwetel Ejiofor) and breakthrough actor (Lupita Nyong’O) categories.

The other nominees for best film are a mix of big and small indies: the Sundance darling “Ain’t Them Bodies Saints,” Richard Linklater’s “Before Midnight,” the Coens brothers musical “Inside Llewyn Davis” and the experimental “Upstream Color.”

The organization added awards for leading acting this year. In the best actor category, Ejiofor is up against Oscar Issac (“Inside Llewyn Davis”), Matthew McConaughey (“Dallas Buyers Club”), Robert Redford (“All is Lost”) and Isaiah Washington (“Blue Caprice”).

The best actress nominees are Cate Blanchett (“Blue Jasmine”), Scarlett Johnansson (“Don Juan”), Brie Larson (“Short Term 12”), Amy Seimetz (“Upstream Color”) and Shailene Woodley (“The Spectacular Now”).

The breakthrough actor category includes Dane DeHaan (“Kill Your Darlings”), Kathryn Hahn (“Afternoon Delight”), Michael B. Jordan (“Fruitvale Station”) and Robin Weigert (“Concussion”) along with Nyong’O.

The Bingham Ray breakthrough director award nominees are Ryan Coogler (“Fruitvale Station”), Adam Leon (“Gimme the Loot”), Alexandre Moors (“Blue Caprice”), Stacie Passon (“Concussion”) and Amy Seimetz (“Sun Don’t Shine.”)

The best documentary nominees: “The Act of Killing,” “The Crash Reel,” “First Cousin Once Removed,” “Let the Fire Burn” and “Our Nixon.”

The Gothams are presented by the New York nonprofit Independent Filmmaker Project on Dec. 2 at Cipriani Wall Street. Variety’s film critics Scott Foundas and Justin Chang serve on the nominating committee.

The organization’s submission guidelines are narrower than the Independent Spirit Awards, which take place in Santa Monica on March 1, 2014 and typically feature more mainstream fare.

The gala is one of the first awards season stops, even if it has a mixed track record of predicting the Oscar race (last year’s top winner was “Moonrise Kingdom”). But this year, the new best actor and actress races add a wrinkle and more star power. At least four of the lead nominees—Ejiofor, McConaughey, Redford and Blanchett—will be likely Academy Awards contenders.

Forest Whitaker, the star of “The Butler,” was previously announced to receive this year’s actor’s tribute. Richard Linklater will receive the director’s tribute.

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