by Julia Pierrepont III
LOS ANGELES, March 3 (Xinhua) -- In a festive white carnival tent reminiscent of beach parties and bar mitzvahs, 400 of Hollywood's talented and progressive independent (non-studio) filmmakers gathered Saturday in the pouring rain to honor their top picks for the most talented and innovative films and filmmakers in the world.
Jordan Peele's horror film "Get Out" was this year's big winner, sweeping up two out three of his nominations for Best Screenplay, Best Director and Best Picture, leaving only Best Screenplay unclaimed.
Groundbreaking director, Spike Lee, who won Best First-time Director himself at the Spirit Awards in 1986 and who teaches a masterclass in film direction at New York University, presented Peele with the Best Director statue.
In his acceptance speech, Peele said: "Our truths are the most powerful weapons we have against the lies in this world. I didn't think it could ever get made, but I knew (this film) had to exist."
He went on to say: "Its clear we are at the beginning of a renaissance right now, where stories from the outsiders, stories from the people in this room, the same stories that independent filmmakers have been telling for years are being honored and recognized and celebrated."
For the last 33 years, the Independent Spirit Awards have been an important part of the motion picture industry, shining a spotlight on the world's most poignant, insightful and politically active films and filmmakers each year.
The mission statement of Film Independent, who hosts the awards, is to champion creative independence in visual storytelling and support a community of artists who embody diversity, innovation and uniqueness of vision.
Comedian hosts, Nick Kroll, who voices Netflix' "Big Mouth" and John Mulaney, from the Broadway hit, "Oh Hello on Broadway," opened the show by addressing the topical elephant in the room: the #TimesUp movement to stop sexual misconduct and exploitation.
Activist Producer, Effie Brown, took to the stage to speak passionately about Film Independent's successful mentorship program, Project Involve, extorting the attendees to get involved in mentoring, hiring and funding the hundreds of new filmmakers they have mentored over the years.
The Best Supporting Female Actor Award went to multi-Award-winner Allison Janney, for her "eats-her-own-young" mom in "I, Tonya."
Janney told Xinhua that "can-do" spirit of "I, Tonya" that enabled them to get it done, "represents the best in independent cinema."
Best Supporting Actor went to the reigning favorite, Sam Rockwell, who has a big chance in wining at the Oscars tomorrow as well.
Best Female Lead went to Francis McDormand, who wore her bedroom slippers up on stage and expressed relief that she was allowed to swear at the Spirit Awards.
"Martin McDonagh knows that a well-placed (expletive) makes a sentence sing like nothing else," she explained.
Best Male Lead went to youngster, Timothee Chalamet, for "Call Me By Your Name," who promised that "Things are going to change" in the industry.
Women and minorities walked away with the majority of the awards on Saturday, including Tatiana Riegel, the first woman to be nominated for a Best Editing Award, who took home the prize for her tight, compelling edit of "I, Tonya." When asked if her win might put her in a position to get equal pay to male editors, she replied: "There is a discrepancy. I hope to get parity, but it may take time."
"Mudbound" won the Robert Altman prize, which is presented to the director, ensemble cast and casting director of the top film by Film Independent, the sponsor of the Independent Spirit Awards.
"Mudbound" director, Dee Reese, told Xinhua: "This film is a powerful reminder that although our nation's painful past is woven into the present, we can move into a better future."
The Best First Screenplay Award went to Pakistani-American, Kumail Nanjiani, of "Silicon Valley," and his wife and writing partner, Emily V. Gordon, for their hit, comedy biopic, "The Big Sick," about an interracial couple who confront illness and parents resistant to their daughter's ethnic suitor. The two are also nominated for an Oscar in the same category.
First Feature Award went to "Ingrid Goes West" and Best Documentary went to "Faces Places," by noted French director, Agnes Varda and Kiehl's Someone to Watch Award went to Korean-American writer/director, Justin Chon, for "Gook."
Best Screenplay went to a very surprised Greta Gerwig, who later told Xinhua, "It was 350 pages, but I managed to pare it down to the more interesting, manageable parts." She is also up for an Oscar tomorrow.
Chloe Zhao, a Beijing native who immigrated to the United States with her folks when she was 15, was nominated for Best Feature, Best Director, Best Editing and Best Cinematography for her latest film, "The Rider." She was awarded the newly-vested Bonnie Award, an award given to women filmmakers in mid-career, rather than first-timers.
Multiple Emmy Award-winning and Academy nominated director, Ava DuVernay, raved about Zhao: "Her work burns so bright, it hurts my eyes." DuVernay is a leader in the #TimesUp movement and recently directed Oprah Winfrey's film adaptation of Madeleine L'Engle's young adult classic, "Wrinkle In Time."
After accepting her award, Zhao told Xinhua: "This isn't about one person. I have an amazing team. Working with my gifted cinematographer is like a dance. And to Ava and all the strong women out there, thank you for being great role models." Zhao is now planning a Sci Fi film which she intends to shoot in China.