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‘Spotlight,’ ‘Beasts of No Nation’ Win Big at Spirit Awards

“Spotlight” took home top honors at the 2016 Spirit Awards, winning best feature, best director, best screenplay, best editing and best ensemble.

Earlier in the afternoon, Brie Larson took home the prize for best lead female for her performance in A24’s “Room” while Abraham Attah won the best actor prize for his portrayal of a child soldier in the Netflix drama “Beasts of No Nation” — his first acting role.

Castmate Idris Elba won the trophy for supporting actor for “Beasts of No Nation.” The award is a partial redemption for Elba, who was snubbed by the Academy of of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences on Jan. 14 for his role as a commandant of an African army of child soldiers — a major reason for the #OscarsSoWhite protest about the exclusion of non-white actors from the nominations.

Elba brought on his Ghanian co-star Attah on stage in his acceptance speech. Elba won the Screen Actors Guild award for the part on Jan. 30.

“Spotlight” won the top feature film award over “Anomalisa,” “Beasts of No Nation,” “Carol” and “Tangerine.” The drama, co-financed by Participant and released by Open Road, is up for six Oscars including Best Picture.

Tom McCarthy won the Spirit Award for directing “Spotlight” — his second award of the day after winning for the script. McCarthy and Josh Singer won for Best Screenplay for a script that recapped the Boston Globe’s Pulitzer Prize-winning investigation into pedophile priests.

The “Spotlight” announcements evoked a strong response from the audience at the 31st Spirit Award ceremonies at a tent on Santa Monica beach on Saturday afternoon. Singer paid tribute to abuse survivor Phil Saviano, who was  in the audience and given a standing ovation.

McCarthy had introduced both the cast and the Globe journalists during the presentation of the previously announced Robert Altman cast award.

“We stand on the shoulders of these journalists,” McCarthy said back stage.

Mark Ruffalo echoed that sentiment, saying that the journalists had been integral to making the movie: “We would not have been here had they not been so generous.”

In a pre-broadcast announcement, Tom McArdle won the editing award for “Spotlight.” He’s also up for the Oscar.

In one of the most popular announcements, transgender actress Mya Taylor won for best supporting actress for the transgender drama “Tangerine” for her role as sex worker Alexandra. The film was shot on an iPhone by director Sean Baker.

“I came from almost nothing,” a beaming Taylor said from the stage following a standing ovation. “My life did a total 360.”

Marielle Heller won the award for best first feature for “The Diary of a Teenage Girl,” starring Bel Powley in a coming-of-age drama.

“Room” took a second trophy with Emma Donoghue winning the best first screenplay award.

Joshua Oppenheimer’s “The Look of Silence,” centered on the Indonesian genocide of the 1960s, took the documentary trophy.

Ed Lachman won the cinematography award for “Carol,” a romance set in 1950s New York City. It was the only win Saturday for “Carol,” which had scored a leading six Spirit nominations.

Laszlo Nemes’ “Son of Saul” took the international award. The Hungarian film, set in a World War II concentration camp, is a front-runner for the foreign language Oscar.

Trey Edward Shults’ “Krisha,” which was shot in nine days at the home of Shults’ parents, took the John Cassavetes award for best film produced for under $500,000.

Film Independent’s 31st Spirit Awards were held on Saturday afternoon — the day before the Academy Awards — in a tent on Santa Monica Beach. “Saturday Night Live” star Kate McKinnon and “Silicon Valley’s” Kumail Nanjiani  co-hosted the awards.

“The Spirit Awards honor the films you’ve been meaning to see,” Nanjiani said.

He and McKinnon also noted that the Spirit nominations were considerably more diverse than the Oscars, with Nanjiani asserting that the ceremonies would be “more diverse than the brochure of a liberal arts college.”

The Spirit Awards are voted on by members of Film Independent and require that the films be produced in the U.S. for less than $20 million. “Birdman” and “12 Years a Slave” won both the Spirit Award and the Oscar best picture trophies during the past two years, as did “The Artist” four years ago.

“Indie filmmaking isn’t about making money,” McKinnon said. “It’s definitely about not making money.”

McKinnon also quipped, “‘Carol’ is the most compelling story about someone leaving gloves behind since ‘The People Vs. OJ Simpson.”

At IFC’s post-Sprit Awards party at 41 Ocean Club,  Jason Stuart admitted that he was elated over castmate Mya Taylor’s win for “Tangerine.”

“She’s such a great person and this has all been kind of overwhelming,” said Stuart, who plays a grouchy cabaret owner in the film. “I loved what she said about ‘beautiful transgender talent.”

Michael Sagol, an exec producer on Bel Powley’s “Diary of a Teenage Girl,” allowed at the party that he was a bit wistful about Saturday’s ceremonies where the coming of age comedy-drama won for best first feature.

“Bel flew in from the U.K. for this and is going back tonight, so we all like this really was the last time that the team will be together,” he mused. “She’s going to be a huge star.”

Sagol’s Caviar production company co-financed with Miranda Bailey’s Cold Iron Pictures. “I picked Caviar because we didn’t want to seem overly serious,” he noted.

See the winners and nominees below:

Best Feature

Anomalisa
Beasts of No Nation
Carol
Spotlight — WINNER
Tangerine

Best Director

Sean Baker, Tangerine
Cary Joji Fukunaga, Beasts of No Nation
Todd Haynes, Carol
Charlie Kaufman & Duke Johnson, Anomalisa
Tom McCarthy, Spotlight  WINNER
David Robert Mitchell, It Follows

Best Screenplay

Charlie Kaufman, Anomalisa
Donald Margulies, The End of the Tour
Phyllis Nagy, Carol
Tom McCarthy & Josh Singer, Spotlight  WINNER
S. Craig Zahler, Bone Tomahawk

Best First Feature

The Diary of a Teenage Girl  WINNER
James White
Manos Sucias
Mediterranea
Songs My Brothers Taught Me

Best First Screenplay

Jesse Andrews, Me and Earl and the Dying Girl
Jonas Carpignano, Mediterranea
Emma Donoghue, Room  WINNER
Marielle Heller, The Diary of a Teenage Girl
John Magary, Russell Harbaugh, Myna Joseph, The Mend

Best Male Lead

Christopher Abbott, James White
Abraham Attah, Beasts of No Nation  WINNER
Ben Mendelsohn, Mississippi Grind
Jason Segel, The End of the Tour
Koudous Seihon, Mediterranea

Best Female Lead

Cate Blanchett, Carol
Brie Larson, Room  WINNER
Rooney Mara, Carol
Bel Powley, The Diary of A Teenage Girl
Kitana Kiki Rodriguez, Tangerine

Best Supporting Male

Kevin Corrigan, Results
Paul Dano, Love & Mercy
Idris Elba, Beasts of No Nation  WINNER
Richard Jenkins, Bone Tomahawk
Michael Shannon, 99 Homes

Best Supporting Female

Robin Bartlett, H.
Marin Ireland, Glass Chin
Jennifer Jason Leigh, Anomalisa
Cynthia Nixon, James White
Mya Taylor, Tangerine  WINNER

Best Documentary

(T)error
Best of Enemies
Heart of a Dog
The Look of Silence WINNER
Meru
The Russian Woodpecker

Best International Film

A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence

Embrace of the Serpent
Girlhood
Mustang
Son of Saul

Best Cinematography

Beasts of No Nation
Carol  WINNER
It Follows
Meadlowland
Songs My Brothers Taught Me

Best Editing

Heaven Knows What
It Follows
Manos Sucias

Room

Spotlight  WINNER

 

John Cassavetes Award (Best Feature Under $500,000)

Advantageous
Christmas, Again
Heaven Knows What
Krisha  WINNER
Out of My Hand

Robert Altman Award (Best Ensemble)

Spotlight  WINNER

Kiehl’s Someone to Watch Award

Chloe Zhao
Felix Thompson
Robert Machoian & Rodrigo Ojeda-Beck

Piaget Producers Award 

Darren Dean
Mel Eslyn
Rebecca Green and Laura D. Smith

 

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