Sideways Wins Six at Independent Spirit Awards
by Eugene Hernandez
At the Independent Spirit Awards this afternoon in Santa Monica, CA, the Independent Feature Project presented 18 awards honoring the best of independent film for the past year.
"Sideways" was the days big winner, nabbing six awards. The film won the best feature trophy, the best director award for Alexander Payne, and the film was singled out for its acting this year. Paul Giamatti won the prize for best male, Thomas Haden Church accepted the award for best supporting actor, and Virginia Madsen was recognized as best supporting actress.
"I think exciting things are happening right now for independent film," said Alexander Payne, accepting his screenplay prize. "I think it's an exciting time for independent, personal, auteur... whatever we want to call it -- films."
"The one thing that is so independent spirited is seeing a lot of people that I clawed my way up with," said Haden Church. Accepting his prize, Paul Giamatti said, "I am neither spirited nor particularly independent in anyway, but it is awfully nice to be surrounded by folks who are."
"Maria Full of Grace" was a noteworthy winner, honored for best female lead for the acclaimed debut performance of Catalina Sandino Moreno and the best first screenplay award for the films writer and director Joshua Marston.
"If you see their faces -- these four women -- you see diversity," said Sandino Moreno, acknowledging the independent spirit of her fellow nominees in the lead acting category.
Zach Braff's "Garden State" won the prize for best first feature. Receiving his award, Zach Braff noted that four years ago he sat outside the Spirit Awards watching people arrive for the ceremony. "It is so thrilling to be invited, to be inside this tent, let alone being on stage."
The award for best documentary went to Bruce Sinofsky and Joe Berlinger for their film, "Metallica: Some Kind of Monster."
Documentarians Zana Briski and Ross Kauffman won the DirecTV/IFC Truer than Fiction award with the $20,000 cash prize and producer Gina Kwon was presented the Bravo/American Express Producers Award, also a $20,000 prize, for her work on such films as "The Good Girl" and "Me and You and Everyone We Know."
Filmmaker Jem Cohen won the Turning Leaf Someone to Watch Award, including a $20,000 cash award. On stage, recalling a recent incident in which he had film confiscated by authorities while he was shooting a passing landscape from a train window. Cohen commented, "I've been shooting landscapes from trains for as long as I have been making films -- documenting the world we live in is the very basis of my life as a filmmaker." Continuing he emphasized, "I think to be silent about such incidents, to pretend that they aren't happening is disrespectful to the Constitution and the Bill of Rights and to independent spirit itself."
The prize for best foreign film went to Alejandro Amenabar for his feature, "The Sea Inside." Accepting his award, the director recalled the first time he started thinking about the movie, while he was starting out at the ocean. Here in Santa Monica today, he noted, brought a nice sense of closure as he looked out at the Pacific. "This is the most beautiful award of all," Alejandro Amenabar beamed, "Thank you very much."
COMPLETE LIST OF WINNERS:
BEST FEATURE (Award given to the Producer)
"Sideways," Producer: Michael London
Alexander Payne, "Sideways"
"Sideways," Writers: Alexander Payne & Jim Taylor
BEST FIRST FEATURE
"Garden State," Director: Zach Braff
Producers: Pamela Abdy, Gary Gilbert, Dan Halsted, and Richard Klubeck
BEST FIRST SCREENPLAY
"Maria Full of Grace," Writer: Joshua Marston
JOHN CASSAVETES AWARD (Given to the best feature made for $500,000)
"Mean Creek," Writer/Director: Jacob Aaron Estes
Producers: Susan Johnson, Rick Rosenthal, Hagai Shaham
BEST DEBUT PERFORMANCE (Actors in their first significant role in a feature film)
Rodrigo de la Serna, "The Motorcycle Diaries"
BEST SUPPORTING FEMALE
Virginia Madsen, "Sideways"
BEST SUPPORTING MALE
Thomas Haden Church, "Sideways"
BEST FEMALE LEAD
Catalina Sandino Moreno, "Maria Full of Grace"
BEST MALE LEAD
Paul Giamatti, "Sideways"
"The Motorcycle Diaries," Eric Gautier
BEST FOREIGN FILM (Award given to the Director)
"The Sea Inside" (Spain) Director: Alejandro Amenábar
BEST DOCUMENTARY (Award given to the Director)
"Metallica: Some Kind of Monster," Directors: Joe Berlinger & Bruce Sinofsky
Ensemble Cast: "Mean Creek"
Rory Culkin, Ryan Kelley, Scott Mechlowicz, Trevor Morgan, Josh Peck, Carly Schroeder
Turning Leaf Someone to Watch Award
Jem Cohen, director of "Chain"
DIRECTV/IFC Truer Than Fiction Award
Zana Briski and Ross Kauffman for "Born Into Brothels"
Bravo/American Express Producers Award
Gina Kwon, producer of "The Good Girl" and "Me and You and Everyone We Know"