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Indie Spirit Awards Give ‘Nomadland’ a Key Win and Award Carey Mulligan in Best Actress Nail-Biter

Matt Donnelly
·3-min read

The 2021 Film Independent Spirit Awards, held virtually on Thursday evening, marked another big night for “Nomadland” and more of this year’s indie gems.

Usually a casual, day-drinking affair on the beach in Santa Monica, the digital ceremony marked the final stop before Sunday’s Academy Awards. The evening’s top prize of best feature went to “Nomadland,” as did best director to its helmer Chloé Zhao. Both have been steamrolling triumphantly through the pandemic-extended award season.

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in this year’s nail-biting best actress race, Carey Mulligan notched a win for best female lead for her powerful turn in “Promising Young Woman.” She dedicated her award to a “true independent spirit,” the late British actress Helen McCrory. Riz Ahmed took best actor for his role in “Sound of Metal,” in a stacked category against Steven Yuen of “Minari” and the late Chadwick Boseman for “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom.”

Winning in the best supporting actress category was Yuh-Jung Youn of “Minari.” The actor credited the very independent spirit of the Lee Isaac Chung production — specifically its lean budget and tight schedule.

“This is amazing and i’m very grateful. Even though without money, without time, we survived all right. Somehow we got together very closely … in the trailer, and became really family. Because of that, we made it this far,” she said. Paul Raci took best supporting actor for his moving work in Amazon’s “Sound of Metal.”

Emerald Fennell took the prize for best screenplay for “Promising Young Woman.” Best first screenplay went to Andy Siara for “Palm Springs,” the Sundance sales record-setter released by Hulu. Siara thanked his fellow nominees, saying “your movies make me want to be a better writer.” The Netflix original “Crip Camp” took the prize for best documentary.

For the first time in its history, the awards recognized the work of what they termed “independent television.” The inaugural award for best new scripted series went to “I May Destroy You,” the acclaimed HBO Max original created by and starring Michaela Coel. In brief remarks, Coel spoke of editing and delivering the show during pandemic lockdown and worldwide civil unrest, thanking her creative team for a space to express love. The cast of the series won best ensemble for television. “Unorthodox” star Shira Haas took best female performance in TV, and her costar Amit Rahav took best male performance.

The annual Robert Altman Award, which celebrated ensemble casts, went to Regina King’s “One Night in Miami.” Recipients included Kingsley Ben-Adir, Eli Goree, Aldis Hodge, and Leslie Odom Jr. The award is also shared annually with a film’s director and casting director. The John Cassavetes Award, for features produced for under $500,000, went to writer/director Merawi Gerima of “Residue.”

The ceremony is typically held on the Saturday afternoon before Oscar Sunday, this year moved to the Thursday before. There were plenty of sentimental gags about missing the traditional show. Film Independent President Josh Welsh did a melancholy skit prior to the broadcast, moping around the beach. Organizers paired with the platform Looped to create several interactive “venues” online, including a cocktail class, movie chat and virtual tables for guests. Online karaoke was set as an after-party celebration. The virtual backstage was hosted by Carla Renata and and Variety‘s Angelique Jackson.

View the full list of winners here.

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