Thu. Jul 9th, 2020

Spirit Awards: ‘The Farewell’ wins Best Feature, Adam Sandler named Best Actor

The voters of the 35th Film Independent Spirit Awards named The Farewell, from writer/director Lulu Wang as the Best Feature of 2019. It’s co-star Zhao Shuzhen also won Supporting Female in an upset over favorite Jennifer Lopez in Hustlers.

In her acceptance speech Wang talked about the conversation of having more women filmmakers, saying “We don’t have to encourage women, there are lots of women making films and who want to make films. Give women the freaking job. Give them the money! Don’t make them run through that many hoops!”

The Farewell‘s win marks the first time in the Spirit Awards 35-year history that a non-Best Picture Oscar nominee won against a film that is (Marriage Story).

In one of the most un-Oscary lineups in a while for the Film Independent Spirit Awards, The Lighthouse and Uncut Gems went into today with the most nominations at five apiece. The Lighthouse took home two awards, Supporting Male for Willem Dafoe and Best Cinematography while Uncut Gems won three: Best Director for the Safdie Bros, Male Lead for Adam Sandler and Best Editing. Sandler provided a long speech that was largely in one of his caricature voices, beginning with “Hello my name is Adam Sandler.…” and then thanked his family, Netflix’s Ted Sarandos, Scott Rudin and then riffed on his perceived Oscar snub comparing it to the time he lost Best Looking in high school but was named Best Personality instead (“And tonight as I look around this room, I realize the independent is Spirit Awards are the best personality awards of Hollywood”).

Renée Zellweger was named Best Female Lead for her role as Judy Garland in Judy. With this win, Zellweger becomes the 6th woman this decade to win Critics Choice, the Golden Globe, Screen Actors Guild, BAFTA and Spirit Award on their way to an Oscar win, which Zellweger is surely to achieve tomorrow night.

Marriage Story was selected to receive the Robert Altman Award, which is bestowed upon one film’s director, casting director and ensemble cast. The Altman Award was created in 2008 in honor of legendary director Robert Altman who was known for creating extraordinary ensemble casts.

At the Film Independent Spirit Awards Brunch in January, the grant winners were announced for the Bonnie Award (Kelly Reichardt), Producers Award (Mollye Asher), Someone to Watch Award (Rashaad Ernesto Green) and Truer Than Fiction Award (Nadia Shihab).

The 35th Film Independent Spirit Awards will be hosted for the second year in a row by Aubrey Plaza, who entertained audiences with her Judy Garland opening short film and number and later in a riff off of The Lighthouse with Michael Shannon. The event was once again held inside a tent setting on a beach in Santa Monica, California.

Here is the full list of nominees with winners in bold.

BEST FEATURE (Award given to the producer. Executive Producers are not awarded)

A Hidden Life
Producers: Elisabeth Bentley, Dario Bergesio, Grant Hill, Josh Jeter

Producers: Timur Bekbosunov, Julian Cautherley, Bronwyn Cornelius, Peter Wong

WINNER – The Farewell
Producers: Anita Gou, Daniele Melia, Andrew Miano, Peter Saraf, Marc Turtletaub, Lulu
Wang, Chris Weitz, Jane Zheng

Marriage Story
Producers: Noah Baumbach, David Heyman

Uncut Gems
Producers: Eli Bush, Sebastian Bear-McClard, Scott Rudin

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

WINNER Booksmart
Director: Olivia Wilde
Producers: Chelsea Barnard, David Distenfeld, Jessica Elbaum, Megan Ellison,
Katie Silberman

The Climb
Director/Producer: Michael Angelo Covino
Producers: Noah Lang, Kyle Marvin

Director: Kent Jones
Producers: Luca Borghese, Ben Howe, Caroline Kaplan, Oren Moverman

The Last Black Man in San Francisco
Director/Producer: Joe Talbot
Producers: Dede Gardner, Jeremy Kleiner, Khaliah Neal, Christina Oh

The Mustang
Director: Laure de Clermont-Tonnerre
Producer: Ilan Goldman

See You Yesterday
Director: Stefon Bristol
Producer: Spike Lee

JOHN CASSAVETES AWARD – Given to the best feature made for under $500,000 (Award given to the writer, director and producer. Executive Producers are not awarded)

Burning Cane
Writer/Director/Producer: Phillip Youmans
Producers: Ojo Akinlana, Jakob Johnson, Karen Kaia Livers, Mose Mayer,
Wendell Pierce, Isaac Webb, Cassandra Youmans

Writer/Director: Tom Quinn
Producers: Joshua Blum, Alexandra Byer, Craig Shilowich, Matthew Thurm

WINNER – Give Me Liberty
Writer/Director/Producer: Kirill Mikhanovsky
Writer/Producer: Alice Austen
Producers: Val Abel, Wally Hall, Michael Manasseri, George Rush, Sergey Shtern

Writer/Director/Producer: Rashaad Ernesto Green
Writer: Zora Howard
Producer: Darren Dean, Joy Ganes

Wild Nights With Emily
Writer/Director/Producer: Madeleine Olnek
Producers: Anna Margarita Albelo, Casper Andreas, Max Rifkind-Barron


  • Alma Har’el, Honey Boy
  • Lorene Scafaria, Hustlers
  • Julius Onah, Luce
  • Robert Eggers, The Lighthouse
  • WINNER – Benny Safdie & Josh Safdie, Uncut Gems


  • WINNER – Noah Baumbach, Marriage Story
  • Jason Begue and Shawn Snyder, To Dust
  • Ronald Bronstein & Benny Safdie & Josh Safdie, Uncut Gems
  • Chinonye Chukwu, Clemency
  • Tarell Alvin McCraney, High Flying Bird


  • WINNER – Fredrica Bailey & Stefon Bristol, See You Yesterday
  • Hannah Bos & Paul Thureen, Driveways
  • Bridget Savage Cole & Danielle Krudy, Blow the Man Down
  • Jocelyn DeBoer & Dawn Luebbe, Greener Grass
  • James Montague & Craig W. Sanger, The Vast of Night


  • Todd Banhazl, Hustlers
  • WINNER – Jarin Blaschke, The Lighthouse
  • Natasha Braier, Honey Boy
  • Chananun Chotrungroj, The Third Wife
  • Pawel Pogorzelski, Midsommar


  • Julie Béziau, The Third Wife
  • WINNER – Ronald Bronstein & Benny Safdie, Uncut Gems
  • Tyler L. Cook, Sword of Trust
  • Louise Ford, The Lighthouse
  • Kirill Mikhanovsky, Give Me Liberty


  • Karen Allen, Colewell
  • Hong Chau, Driveways
  • Elisabeth Moss, Her Smell
  • Mary Kay Place, Diane
  • Alfre Woodard, Clemency
  • WINNER – Renée Zellweger, Judy


  • Chris Galust, Give Me Liberty
  • Kelvin Harrison Jr., Luce
  • Robert Pattinson, The Lighthouse
  • Matthias Schoenaerts, The Mustang
  • WINNER – Adam Sandler, Uncut Gems


  • Jennifer Lopez, Hustlers
  • Taylor Russell, Waves
  • Lauren “LoLo” Spencer, Give Me Liberty
  • Octavia Spencer, Luce
  • WINNER – Zhao Shuzhen, The Farewell


  • WINNER – Willem Dafoe, The Lighthouse
  • Noah Jupe, Honey Boy
  • Shia LaBeouf, Honey Boy
  • Jonathan Majors, The Last Black Man in San Francisco
  • Wendell Pierce, Burning Cane

ROBERT ALTMAN AWARD – Given to one film’s director, casting director and ensemble cast

Marriage Story
Director: Noah Baumbach
Casting Directors: Douglas Aibel, Francine Maisler
Ensemble Cast: Alan Alda, Laura Dern, Adam Driver, Julie Hagerty, Scarlett Johansson,
Ray Liotta, Azhy Robertson, Merritt Wever

BEST DOCUMENTARY (Award given to the director and producer)

  • WINNER – American Factory
    Director/Producer: Steven Bognar & Julia Reichert
    Producers: Julie Parker Benello, Jeff Reichert
  • Apollo 11
    Director/Producer: Todd Douglas Miller
    Producers: Evan Krauss, Thomas Baxley Petersen
  • For Sama
    Director: Edward Watts
    Director/Producer: Waad al-Kateab
  • Honeyland
    Director: Tamara Kotevska
    Director/Producer: Ljubo Stefanov
    Producer: Atanas Georgiev
  • Island of the Hungry Ghosts
    Director/Producer: Gabrielle Brady
    Producers: Gizem Acarla, Samm Haillay, Alex Kelly, Alexander Wadouh

BEST INTERNATIONAL FILM (Award given to the director)

  • Invisible Life
    Director: Karim Aïnouz
  • Les Misérables
    Director: Ladj Ly
  • WINNER – Parasite
    South Korea
    Director: Bong Joon-Ho
  • Portrait of a Lady on Fire
    Director: Céline Sciamma
  • Retablo
    Director: Álvaro Delgado-Aparicio L.
  • The Souvenir
    United Kingdom
    Director: Joanna Hogg

BONNIE AWARD – Bonnie Tiburzi Caputo joined American Airlines in 1973 at age 24, becoming the first female pilot to fly for a major U.S. airline. In her honor, the third Bonnie Award will recognize a mid-career female director with a $50,000 unrestricted grant, sponsored by American Airlines.

  • Marielle Heller
  • WINNER – Kelly Reichardt
  • Lulu Wang

PRODUCERS AWARD – The 23rd annual 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 $25,000 unrestricted grant.

  • WINNER – Mollye Asher
  • Krista Parris
  • Ryan Zacarias

SOMEONE TO WATCH AWARD The 26th annual Someone to Watch Award recognizes a talented filmmaker of singular vision who has not yet received appropriate recognition. The award includes a $25,000 unrestricted grant.

  • WINNER – Rashaad Ernesto Green
    Director of Premature
  • Ash Mayfair
    Director of The Third Wife
  • Joe Talbot
    Director of The Last Black Man in San Francisco

TRUER THAN FICTION AWARD – The 25th annual Truer Than Fiction Award is presented to an emerging director of non-fiction features who has not yet received significant recognition. The award includes a $25,000 unrestricted grant.

  • Khalik Allah
    Director of Black Mother
  • Davy Rothbart
    Director of 17 Blocks
  • WINNER – Nadia Shihab
    Director of Jaddoland
  • Erick Stoll & Chase Whiteside
    Director of América
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