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‘Nomadland’ Wins Best Feature at Gotham Awards, Riz Ahmed and Nicole Beharie Upset in Acting Categories

The first awards show of the season takes place in a hybrid ceremony from New York City.

Nomadland Crop

Nomadland” from Chloé Zhao, the story about a woman who decides to live as a van-dwelling modern-day nomad in the American West, won best feature during the Gotham Awards’ hybrid virtual ceremony from Cipriani Wall Street in New York. This marks the second time that Zhao has won this in the last three years, as she also won for her 2018 debut, “The Rider.”

In addition to winning the top award, it also won the audience award, an honor selected from all the nominees for best feature, documentary and international feature. The 2020 Gotham Awards made history, with all of this year’s best feature nominees directed by women for its 30th celebration.

In the last decade, four Gotham winners for best feature failed to secure best picture nominations at the Oscars: “The Rider” (2018), “Inside Llewyn Davis” (2013), “Moonrise Kingdom” (2012) and “Beginners” (2011), although it tied with an eventual Oscar-nominated film, “The Tree of Life.”

The ceremony was live-streamed on the Independent Filmmaker Project and Variety’s Facebook pages and had many hiccups from delays of winners hearing their names to sound and visual issues. The ceremony gave the first glimpse of what the rest of the awards season could look like from the televised shows, and hopefully, it works itself out fast.

Riz Ahmed walked away with the best actor award for his performance in Darius Marder’s “Sound of Metal” over presumed frontrunner Chadwick Boseman for “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom,” who he thanked in his speech. “It’s been a hard year for all of us,” Ahmed said. As SAG awards voting begins today, he may have brought a spotlight at the best possible moment.

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Nicole Beharie in “Miss Juneteenth” (Vertical Entertainment) Courtesy of Sundance Institute

The same can be said for Nicole Beharie, who won best actress for her phenomenal work in “Miss Juneteenth” from Channing Godfrey Peoples. In utter shock, she thanked her writer and director, just trying to find the words of gratitude.

Zachary Quinto presented the breakthrough actor award to Kingsley Ben-Adir for his extraordinary performance in “One Night in Miami.” Ben-Adir, who plays Malcolm X in Regina King’s directorial debut, was surprised by his win and complimented his fellow nominees, including Sidney Flanigan from “Never Rarely Sometimes Always.”

There were two ties among the categories, most notably the best screenplay award shared between Radha Blank’s “The Forty-Year-Old Version” and Dan Sallitt’s “Fourteen.” The other tie came in the documentary feature category, with PBS Distribution and Frontline’s “A Thousand Cuts” and Amazon Studios’ “Time” sharing the honor.

André Holland delivered a moving and heartfelt actor tribute to the late Chadwick Boseman. The two worked together on Brian Helgeland’s “42,” the biopic about baseball player Jackie Robinson. “He had a way with being kind without being soft,” said Holland. “One and one don’t always make two. Sometimes it makes three or four if you have the right one. Chad was the right one.”

After asking for a moment of silence, the reel of Boseman’s most prolific works were featured including “Black Panther” and his 2020 features “Da 5 Bloods” and “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom.”

Boseman’s widow Taylor Simone Ledward Boseman accepted his tribute honor, doing her best to hold back her tears throughout. “He was the most honest person I ever met,” said Ledward Boseman. “He was blessed to live many lives within his concentrated one. He harnessed the power of letting go and letting God’s love shine through. May we not let his conviction be in vain. It is my honor on behalf of my husband.” She closed with tears streaming down her face, “Chad…thank you. I love you. I am so proud of you. Keep shining your light on us.”

George C. Wolfe, director of “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” presented the actress tribute to Academy Award winner Viola Davis. Wolfe talked about Davis’ “purity of heart, passion, fire, rage and generosity” she brings to all of her roles. “White people have always made themselves the custodians of the Black experience,” she says. “I am so proud to be a part of Ma Rainey and August Wilson’s legacy. You can leave something for people or you can leave something in people. That’s what August Wilson did.”

Davis won an Oscar in 2016’s “Fences” and was nominated for her performances in 2011’s “The Help” and 2008’s “Doubt.”

Jeffrey Wright called out the “idiocy” in Washington when accepting his 2020 “Made in NY” Award from the Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment (MOME). “I came here to be a New York actor and that’s what I am.”

Lupita Nyong’o presented Steve McQueen with the director tribute speaking personally about her time working with him on “12 Years a Slave,” for which she won the Oscar for best supporting actress. In addition to his best picture winning film, he’s also directed “Hunger,” “Shame,” “Widows” and most recently, “Small Axe” for Amazon Prime Video. “I’m very grateful for this accolade,” said McQueen. “These anthology of five films are deeply personal to me.”

HBO was a double winner in the breakthrough series categories. “Watchmen” took home the honors for over 40 minutes while the critically acclaimed “I May Destroy You” walked away with the statuette for under 40 minutes.

Emmy-winner Ryan Murphy received the industry tribute for a year that included his musical adaptation of “The Prom,” which he directed. He also produced the adaptation of “The Boys in the Band.”

Aaron Sorkin’s “The Trial of the Chicago 7” received the inaugural ensemble tribute, which he also presented. The Netflix feature includes Sacha Baron Cohen, Eddie Redmayne, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Jeremy Strong, Mark Rylance, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Michael Keaton, Frank Langella and John Carroll Lynch.

Jeff Sharp, IFP Executive Director, also announced the Joel Schumacher Endowment initiative in partnership with MTV.

As of Jan. 11, IFP will be The Gotham Film & Media Institute, aka The Gothams.

The full list of winners and nominees are below.

Best Feature

  • “The Assistant” – Kitty Green, director; Scott Macaulay, James Schamus, P. Jennifer Dana, Ross Jacobson, producers (Bleecker Street)
  • “First Cow” – Kelly Reichardt, director; Neil Kopp, Vincent Savino, Anish Savjani, producers (A24)
  • “Never Rarely Sometimes Always” – Eliza Hittman, director; Adele Romanski, Sara Murphy, producers (Focus Features)
  • “Nomadland” – Chloé Zhao, director; Frances McDormand, Peter Spears, Mollye Asher, Dan Janvey, Chloé Zhao, producers (Searchlight Pictures) – WINNER
  • “Relic” – Natalie Erika James, director; Anna Mcleish, Sarah Shaw, Jake Gyllenhaal, Riva Marker, producers (IFC Midnight)

Best Documentary

  • “76 Days” – Hao Wu, Weixi Chen, Anonymous, directors; Hao Wu, Jean Tsien, producers (MTV Documentary Films)
  • “City Hall” – Frederick Wiseman, director; Frederick Wiseman, Karen Konicek, producers (Zipporah Films)
  • “Our Time Machine” – Yang Sun, S. Leo Chiang directors; S. Leo Chiang, Yang Sun, producers (Passion River Films)
  • “A Thousand Cuts” – Ramona S. Diaz, director; Ramona S. Diaz, Leah Marino, Julie Goldman, Christopher Clements, Carolyn Hepburn, producers (PBS Distribution | FRONTLINE ) – WINNER
  • “Time” – Garrett Bradley, director; Lauren Domino, Kellen Quinn, Garrett Bradley, producers (Amazon Studios) – WINNER (tie)

Best International Feature

  • “Bacurau” – Kleber Mendonça Filho, Juliano Dornelles, directors; Emilie Lesclaux, Saïd Ben Saïd, Michel Merkt, producers (Kino Lorber)
  • “Beanpole” – Kantemir Balagov, director; Alexander Rodnyansky, Sergey Melkumov, producers (Kino Lorber)
  • “Cuties” (Mignonnes) – Maïmouna Doucouré, director; Zangro, producer (Netflix)
  • “Identifying Features” – Fernanda Valadez, director; Astrid Rondero, producer (Kino Lorber) – WINNER
  • “Martin Eden” – Pietro Marcello, director; Pietro Marcello, Beppe Caschetto, Thomas Ordonneau, Michael Weber, Viola Fügen, producers (Kino Lorber)
  • “Wolfwalkers” – Tomm Moore, Ross Stewart, directors; Paul Young, Nora Twomey, Tomm Moore, Stéphan Roelants, producers (Apple TV Plus/GKIDS)

Bingham Ray Breakthrough Director Award

  • Radha Blank, “The Forty-Year-Old Version” (Netflix)
  • Channing Godfrey Peoples, “Miss Juneteenth” (Vertical Entertainment)
  • Alex Thompson, “Saint Frances” (Oscilloscope Laboratories)
  • Carlo Mirabella-Davis, “Swallow” (IFC Films)
  • Andrew Patterson, “The Vast of Night” (Amazon Studios) – WINNER

Best Screenplay

  • “Bad Education” – Mike Makowsky (HBO)
  • “First Cow” – Jon Raymond, Kelly Reichardt (A24)
  • “The Forty-Year-Old Version” – Radha Blank (Netflix) – WINNER
  • “Fourteen” – Dan Sallitt (Grasshopper Film) – WINNER
  • “The Vast of Night” – James Montague, Craig Sanger (Amazon Studios)

Best Actor

  • Riz Ahmed, “Sound of Metal” (Amazon Studios) – WINNER
  • Chadwick Boseman, “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” (Netflix)
  • Jude Law, “The Nest” (IFC Films)
  • John Magaro, “First Cow” (A24)
  • Jesse Plemons, “I’m Thinking of Ending Things” (Netflix)

Best Actress

  • Nicole Beharie, “Miss Juneteenth” (Vertical Entertainment) – WINNER
  • Jessie Buckley, “I’m Thinking of Ending Things” (Netflix)
  • Carrie Coon, “The Nest” (IFC Films)
  • Frances McDormand, “Nomadland” (Searchlight Pictures)
  • Yuh-Jung Youn, “Minari” (A24)

Breakthrough Actor

  • Jasmine Batchelor, “The Surrogate” (Monument Releasing)
  • Kingsley Ben-Adir, “One Night in Miami…” (Amazon Studios) – WINNER
  • Sidney Flanigan, “Never Rarely Sometimes Always” (Focus Features)
  • Orion Lee, “First Cow” (A24)
  • Kelly O’Sullivan, “Saint Frances” (Oscilloscope Laboratories)

Breakthrough Series – Long Format (over 40 minutes)

  • “The Great” – Tony McNamara, creator; Tony McNamara, Marian Macgowan, Mark Winemaker, Elle Fanning, Brittany Kahan Ward, Doug Mankoff, Andrew Spaulding, Josh Kesselman, Ron West, Matt Shakman, executive producers (Hulu)
  • “Immigration Nation” – Christina Clusiau, Shaul Schwarz, Dan Cogan, Jenny Raskin, Brandon Hill, Christian Thompson, executive producers (Netflix)
  • “P-Valley” – Katori Hall, creator; Katori Hall, Dante Di Loreto, Peter Chernin, Jenno Topping, Liz W. Garcia, executive producers (STARZ)
  • “Unorthodox” – Anna Winger, Alexa Karolinski, creators; Anna Winger, Henning Kamm, executive producers (Netflix)
  • “Watchmen” – Damon Lindelof, Creator for Television; Tom Spezialy, Nicole Kassell, Stephen Williams, Joseph E. Iberti, executive producers (HBO) – WINNER

Breakthrough Series – Short Format (under 40 minutes)

  • “Betty” – Crystal Moselle, Lesley Arfin, Igor Srubshchik, Jason Weinberg, executive producers (HBO)
  • “Dave” – Dave Burd, Jeff Schaffer, creators; Dave Burd, Jeff Schaffer, Saladin K. Patterson, Greg Mottola, Kevin Hart, Marty Bowen, Scooter Braun, Mike Hertz, Scott Manson, James Shin, executive producers (FX Networks)
  • “I May Destroy You” – Michaela Coel, creator; Michaela Coel, Phil Clarke, Roberto Troni, executive producers (HBO) – WINNER
  • “Taste the Nation” – Padma Lakshmi, David Shadrack Smith, Sarina Roma, executive producers (Hulu)
  • “Work in Progress” – Abby McEnany, Tim Mason, creators, Abby McEnany, Tim Mason, Lilly Wachowski, Lawrence Mattis, Josh Adler, Ashley Berns, Julia Sweeney, Tony Hernandez, executive producers (SHOWTIME)

Audience Award

  • “Nomadland” – Chloé Zhao, director; Frances McDormand, Peter Spears, Mollye Asher, Dan Janvey, Chloé Zhao, producers (Searchlight Pictures) – WINNER

(Awards Circuit Winners Chart (2020-2021)

Visit THE AWARDS HUB to see the full list of contenders by category.

2021 Academy Awards Predictions