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AWARDS WATCH ’08 | “Ballast” Leads Gotham Awards With Four Nominations

AWARDS WATCH '08 | "Ballast" Leads Gotham Awards With Four Nominations

Lance Hammer‘s “Ballast” led the 18th Annual Gotham Independent Film Award nominations, which were announced this morning by IFP. “Ballast” garnered four nods, including Best Feature, Best Ensemble Performance, Best Breakthrough Director, and Best Breakthrough Actor. The other films feted for Best Feature were Courtney Hunt‘s “Frozen River,” Charlie Kaufman‘s “Synecdoche, New York,” Tom McCarthy‘s “The Visitor,” and Darren Aronofsky‘s “The Wrestler.”

“Contradicting the doom and gloom stories about the state of independent film, 2008 has proven to be an extremely strong year for an immensely diverse group of filmmakers tackling a range of subjects and forms in new and dynamic ways,” said Michelle Byrd, executive director of IFP, in a statement. “Impressively, nearly 50% of our titles are directorial debuts.”

indieWIRE’s Eugene Hernandez and Peter Knegt react to the nominations in a back and forth conversation posted after the announcement.

A scene from Antonio Campos’s “Afterschool.” Image courtesy of IFP.

Presented by IFP, the nation’s oldest and largest organization of independent filmmakers, the
Gothams’ honor American independent film in six categories. In addition to “Ballast,” mulitple nominees included “Synecdoche, New York,” “Frozen River,” “The Visitor,” Woody Allen‘s “Vicky Cristina Barcelona,” Jonathan Demme‘s “Rachel Getting Married” and Antonio Campos‘s “Afterschool.”

One of “Afterschool”‘s nominations came in the category of Best Film Not Playing at a Theater Near You. New this year, that category’s winner will receive a cash award of $15,000 provided by Artists Public Domainand D.R. Reiff & Associates. “Afterschool”‘s competition in the category includes Taylor Greeson‘s “Meadowlark,” Tom Quinn‘s “The New Year Parade,” Nina Paley‘s “Sita Sings the Blues” and Jake Mahaffy‘s “Wellness.”

IFP previously announced that actor Penelope Cruz, president of HBO Documentary FilmsSheila Nevins, and filmmakers Gus Van Sant and Melvin Van Peebles will be presented with Tributes at this year’s awards ceremony. Today’s announcement marked a shift in their name to the “Gotham Independent Film Awards,” a subtle change from the previous “Gotham Awards.”

“In 2007 we refined the criteria to ensure solely independent films [were] eligible for consideration,” noted IFP’s Michelle Byrd, today. She added that the criteria for this year is defined as: “theatrical release through a specialty division of a studio, an independent distributor or via self-distribution.” “Given this clarity of criteria, we decided to incorporate ‘independent film’ into the name for the awards,’ Byrd continued, “We feel this was a subtle tweak, but hopefully, an explicit one.”

Selecting this year’s nominees were 18 critics, journalists, and film programmers. Final award recipients will be determined by separate juries of writers, directors, actors, producers, casting directors, composers and others directly involved in making films. The recipient of The Best Film Not Playing at a Theater Near You award will be determined by the editors of Filmmaker magazine, a publication of IFP, and a curator from The Museum of Modern Art.

The awards will be presented on Tuesday, December 2nd at New York City’s Cipriani Wall Street.

A scene from Charlie Kaufman’s “Synecdoche, New York.” Image courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics.

The 18th Annual Gotham Independent Film Award nominees are:

Best Feature

Lance Hammer, director; Lance Hammer, Nina Parikh, producers (Alluvial Film Company)

Frozen River
Courtney Hunt, director; Heather Rae, Chip Hourihan, producers (Sony Pictures Classics)

Synecdoche, New York
Charlie Kaufman, director; Anthony Bregman, Charlie Kaufman, Spike Jonze, Sidney Kimmel, producers (Sony Pictures Classics)

The Visitor
Tom McCarthy, director; Mary Jane Skalski, Michael London, producers (Overture Films)

The Wrestler
Darren Aronofsky, director; Scott Franklin, Darren Aronofsky, producers (Fox Searchlight Pictures)

Best Documentary

Chris & Don: A Love Story
Guido Santi & Tina Mascara, directors; Julia Scott, Tina Mascara, Guido Santi, James White, producers (Zeitgeist Films)

Encounters at the End of the World
Werner Herzog, director; Henry Kaiser, producer (THINKFilm / Image Entertainment)

Man on Wire
James Marsh, director; Simon Chinn, producer (Magnolia Pictures)

Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired
Marina Zenovich, director; Jeffrey Levy-Hinte, Lila Yacoub, Marina Zenovich, producers (THINKFilm in association with HBO Documentaries)

Trouble the Water
Tia Lessin & Carl Deal, producers/directors (Zeitgeist Films)

Best Ensemble Performance

Micheal J. Smith, Sr., JimMyron Ross, Tarra Riggs, Johnny McPhail (Alluvial Film Company)

Rachel Getting Married
Anne Hathaway, Rosemarie DeWitt, Bill Irwin, Tunde Adebimpe, Mather Zickel, Anna Deavere Smith, Anisa George, Debra Winger (Sony Pictures Classics)

Synecdoche, New York
Philip Seymour Hoffman, Samantha Morton, Michelle Williams, Catherine Keener, Emily Watson, Dianne Wiest, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Hope Davis, Tom Noonan (Sony Pictures Classics)

Vicky Cristina Barcelona
Scarlett Johansson, Rebecca Hall, Javier Bardem, Penelope Cruz (The Weinstein Company)

The Visitor
Richard Jenkins, Hiam Abbas, Haaz Sleiman, Danai Gurira (Overture Films)

Breakthrough Director

Antonio Campos for Afterschool
Dennis Dortch for A Good Day to Be Black & Sexy (Magnolia Pictures)
Lance Hammer for Ballast (Alluvial Film Company)
Barry Jenkins for Medicine for Melancholy (IFC Films)
Alex Rivera for Sleep Dealer (Maya Releasing)

Breakthrough Actor

Pedro Castaneda in August Evening (Maya Releasing)
Rosemarie DeWitt in Rachel Getting Married (Sony Pictures Classics)
Rebecca Hall in Vicky Cristina Barcelona (The Weinstein Company)
Melissa Leo in Frozen River (Sony Pictures Classics)
Alejandro Polanco in Chop Shop (Koch Lorber Films)
Micheal J. Smith, Sr. in Ballast (Alluvial Film Company)

Best Film Not Playing at a Theater Near You

Antonio Campos, director; Josh Mond, Sean Durkin, producers

Taylor Greeson, producer/director

The New Year Parade
Tom Quinn, director; Steve Beal, Tom Quinn, producers

Sita Sings the Blues
Nina Paley, producer/director

Jake Mahaffy, director; Jake Mahaffy, Jeff Clark, producers

The nominating committees for the Gotham Independent Film Awards announced above are as follows:

Nominating Committee for Best Feature and Best Ensemble Performance:
Ty Burr, Film Critic, The Boston Globe
Scott Foundas, Film Editor / Film Critic, LA Weekly
Dave Karger, Senior Writer, Entertainment Weekly
Carrie Rickey, Film Critic, The Philadelphia Inquirer

Nominating Committee for Breakthrough Director and Breakthrough Actor:
Cynthia Fuchs, Film Critic, PopMatters and NPR.org
Robert Koehler, Film Critic, Variety
Rob Nelson, Film Critic, Minnesota Post
Andrew O’Hehir, Senior Writer, Salon.com

Nominating Committee for Best Documentary:
Cynthia Fuchs, Film Critic, PopMatters and NPR.org
Owen Gleiberman, Film Critic, Entertainment Weekly
Tom Hall, Director of Programming, Sarasota Film Festival
Ronnie Scheib, Film Critic, Variety

Nominating Committee for Best Film Not Playing at a Theater Near You(TM):
Joshua Siegel, Associate Curator, Department of Film and Media, Museum of Modern Art;
members of the editorial staff of Filmmaker Magazine:
Scott Macaulay (Editor-in-Chief), Nick Dawson, Mary Glucksman, Jason Guerrasio, Brandon Harris, Ray Pride

Get the latest from awards season anytime in indieWIRE’s special Awards Watch section.

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