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AWARDS WATCH: “Half Nelson,” “Little Miss Sunshine” Top Spirit Award Nominations

AWARDS WATCH: "Half Nelson," "Little Miss Sunshine" Top Spirit Award Nominations

Half Nelson” and “Little Miss Sunshine,” a pair of first features by American filmmaking duos, lead the list of nominees for Film Independent‘s Spirit Awards honoring the best in independent film. Both films are nominated for best feature along with “American Gun,” “The Dead Girl,” and “Pan’s Labyrinth.” “Half Nelson” from Ryan Fleck & Anna Boden and “Little Miss Sunshine” by Jonathan Dayton & Valerie Faris are also nominated for best director, with Fleck singled out for “Nelson” and video directors Dayton & Faris nominated for “Sunshine.” Each received five competitive nominations, which were announced this morning, while “Nelson” producers Alex Orlovsky and Jamie Patricof were also singled out as finalists for the Axium Producers Award.

This year’s nominations showcase a wide range of films and filmmakers, along with “Half Nelson” and “Little Miss Sunshine,” singling out both high-profile Indiewood movies (“A Prairie Home Companion,” “Pan’s Labyrinth,” “Little Miss Sunshine“) and lower-budgeted indie films (“Old Joy,” “Quinceanera,” “Four Eyed Monsters“), some without U.S. theatrical distribution deals (“Chalk,” “Wristcutters: A Love Story“).

“We are proud to spotlight this year’s eclectic mix of filmmakers and artists who are unafraid to take risks,” said FIND exexucite director Dawn Hudson, in a statement. “The foundation of independent film has always been to push the envelope both in subject matter and filmmaking, and this year is no exception.”

In the Best Documentary category, the nominees are Steven Bognar & Julia Reichert‘s “A Lion in the House,” Laura Poitras‘ “My Country, My Country,” Michael Winterbottom and Mat Whitecross‘ “The Road to Guantanamo,” Annie Sundberg and Ricki Stern‘s “The Trials of Darryl Hunt,” and Keven McAlester‘ “You’re Gonna Miss Me.”

Film Independent also announced the presentation of a Special Distinction Award to David Lynch and Laura Dern for their work on “Inland Empire.” The committee noted in a statement, “The Spirit Awards Nominating Committee has awarded a Special Distinction Award to David Lynch and Laura Dern in recognition of their unique and stunning collaborative work – in the mesmerizing ‘Inland Empire’ as well as the influential independent classics ‘Blue Velvet‘ and ‘Wild at Heart.’ Lynch’s masterful direction and Dern’s indelible performances in these visionary films represent to the committee the essence of artistic achievement and independent spirit.”

More than 250 films were submitted for consideration by nominating committees this year, again selecting films that meet four key guidelines: 1. Uniqueness of vision; 2. Original, provocative subject matter; 3. Economy of means (with particular attention paid to total production cost and individual compensation); 4. Percentage of financing from independent sources. Winners will be selected by members of Film Independent, as well as those from IFP.

The Spirit Awards ceremony will air live from a tent on the beach in Santa Monica, CA on Saturday, February 24 at 5:00 pm EST on IFC, with an edited re-broadcast of the ceremony airing later that evening on AMC at 10:00 pm EST/PST. Sarah Silverman will return as MC for the event again this year.


BEST FEATURE (Award given to the Producer)

American Gun
Producer: Ted Kroeber

The Dead Girl
Producers: Tom Rosenberg, Henry Winterstern, Gary Lucchesi, Richard Wright, Eric Karten, Kevin Turen

Half Nelson
Producers: Jamie Patricof, Alex Orlovsky, Lynette Howell, Anna Boden, Rosanne Korenberg

Little Miss Sunshine
Producers: Marc Turtletaub, David T. Friendly, Peter Saraf, Albert Berger, Ron Yerxa

Pan’s Labyrinth
Producers: Bertha Navarro, Alfonso Cuaron, Frida Torresblanco, Alvaro Augustin, Guillermo Del Toro


Robert Altman, “A Prairie Home Companion”

Jonathan Dayton & Valerie Faris, “Little Miss Sunshine”

Ryan Fleck, “Half Nelson”

Karen Moncrieff, “The Dead Girl”

Steven Soderbergh, “Bubble”

BEST FIRST FEATURE (Award given to the director and producer)

Day Night Day Night
Director: Julia Loktev
Producers: Julia Loktev, Melanie Judd, Jessica Levin

Man Push Cart
Director: Ramin Bahrani
Producers: Ramin Bahrani, Pradip Ghosh,
Bedford T. Bentley III

The Motel
Director: Michael Kang
Producers: Matthew Greenfield, Miguel Arteta,
Gina Kwon, Karin Chien

Sweet Land
Director: Ali Selim
Producers: Alan Cumming, James Bigham, Ali Selim

Wristcutters: A Love Story
Director: Goran Dukic
Producers: Adam Sherman, Chris Coen, Tatiana Kelly,
Mikal P. Lazarev

JOHN CASSAVETES AWARD (Given to the best feature made for under $500,000; award given to the writer, director, and producer)

Director: Mike Akel
Producers: Mike Akel, Angela Alvarez, Graham Davidson, Chris Mass
Writers: Chris Mass & Mike Akel

Four Eyed Monsters
Writer/Director/Producers: Arin Crumley & Susan Buice

Old Joy
Director: Kelly Reichardt
Producers: Lars Knudsen, Jay Van Hoy, Anish Savjani,
Neil Kopp
Writers: Jon Raymond & Kelly Reichardt

Writer/Directors: Richard Glatzer & Wash Westmoreland
Producer: Anne Clements

Twelve and Holding
Director: Michael Cuesta
Producers: Leslie Urdang, Michael Cuesta, Brian Bell, Jenny Schweitzer
Writer: Anthony S. Cipriano


Neil Burger, “The Illusionist”
Nicole Holofcener, “Friends with Money”
Ron Nyswaner, “The Painted Veil”
Jason Reitman, “Thank You For Smoking”
Jeff Stanzler, “Sorry, Haters”


Michael Arndt, “Little Miss Sunshine”
Anna Boden & Ryan Fleck, “Half Nelson”
Goran Dukic, “Wristcutters: A Love Story”
Dito Montiel, “A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints”
Gabrielle Zevin, “Conversations with Other Women”


Shareeka Epps, “Half Nelson”
Catherine O’Hara, “For Your Consideration”
Elizabeth Reaser, “Sweet Land”
Michelle Williams, “Land of Plenty”
Robin Wright Penn, “Sorry, Haters”


Aaron Eckhart, “Thank You For Smoking”
Ryan Gosling, “Half Nelson”
Edward Norton, “The Painted Veil”
Ahmad Razvi, “Man Push Cart”
Forest Whitaker, “American Gun”


Melonie Diaz, “A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints”
Marcia Gay Harden, “American Gun”
Mary Beth Hurt, “The Dead Girl”
Frances McDormand, “Friends with Money”
Amber Tamblyn, “Stephanie Daley”


Alan Arkin, “Little Miss Sunshine”
Raymond J. Barry, “Steel City”
Daniel Craig, “Infamous”
Paul Dano, “Little Miss Sunshine”
Channing Tatum, “A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints”


Arin Crumley, “Four Eyed Monsters”
Anthony Dod Mantle, “Brothers of the Head”
Guillermo Navarro, “Pan’s Labyrinth”
Aaron Platt, “Wild Tigers I Have Known”
Michael Simmonds, “Man Push Cart”

BEST DOCUMENTARY (Award given to the director)

A Lion in the House
Directors: Steven Bognar & Julia Reichert

My Country, My Country
Director: Laura Poitras

The Road to Guantanamo
Directors: Michael Winterbottom and Mat Whitecross

The Trials of Darryl Hunt
Directors: Annie Sundberg and Ricki Stern

You’re Gonna Miss Me
Director: Keven McAlester

BEST FOREIGN FILM (Award given to the director)

12:08 East of Bucharest,” Director: Corneliu Porumboiu

The Blossoming of Maximo Oliveros
Director: Auraeus Solito

Chronicle of an Escape
Director: Israel Adrian Caetano

Days of Glory
Director: Rachid Bouchareb

The Lives of Others
Director: Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck


David Lynch, Laura Dern
In recognition of their unique and stunning collaborative work in the mesmerizing Inland Empire as well as the influential independent classics Blue Velvet and Wild at Heart.


IFC/Acura Someone to Watch Award
The 13th annual IFC/Acura Someone to Watch Award recognizes a talented filmmaker of singular vision who has not yet received appropriate recognition. The award includes a $50,000 unrestricted grant, funded by IFC and Acura. The Finalists are:
So Yong Kim, director of “In Between Days”
Julia Loktev, director of “Day Night Day Night”
Richard Wong, director of “Colma: The Musical”

Axium Truer Than Fiction Award
The 11th annual Axium Truer Than Fiction Award is presented to an emerging director of non-fiction features who has not yet received significant attention. The award includes a $50,000 unrestricted grant funded by Axium International. The Finalists are:
Adele Horn for The “Tailenders”
Eric Daniel Metzgar for “The Chances of the World Changing”
AJ Schnack for “Kurt Cobain About A Son”

Axium Producers Award
The 10th annual Axium Producers Award honors emerging producers who, despite highly limited resources, demonstrate the creativity, tenacity, and vision required to produce quality, independent films. The award includes a $50,000 unrestricted grant, funded by Axium International. The Finalists are:
Julie Lynn, producer of “Nine Lives” and “10 Items or Less”
Alex Orlovsky and Jamie Patricof, producers of “Half Nelson” and “Point & Shoot”
Howard Gertler and Tim Perell, producers of “Shortbus” and “Pizza”

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