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'Black Swan' Takes Four Prizes at the Independent Spirit Awards

Debra Granik’s Winter’s Bone was the heavy favorite going into Saturday's Independent Spirit Awards ceremony with seven nominations but it was Fox Searchlight's Black Swan that danced away with top honors: best feature, best director for Darren Aronofsky, female lead acting kudos for Natalie Portman and a cinematography prize for Matthew Libatique.

The show, spotlighting the year’s independent films, focuses on movies produced for
under $20 million made primarily by Americans.

Asked about the broad success of his modestly budgeted, out-there film, Aronofsky said, "I have no f---ing idea. It's really exciting. The word I keep hearing is 'fun'- it's the best compliment you can receive as a filmmaker. This one was fun. It worked out."

Though it did not dominate the awards as expected, Winter's Bone, from Roadside Attractions, was represented with best supporting acting prizes for John Hawkes and Dale Dickey, an actress who up until this point, was probably best known as Patty the daytime hooker on My Name is Earl.

James Franco, who is also nominated for a best actor Oscar, earned best male lead for 127 Hours. "I just went through film school at NYU and finished my thesis film," he said, "so independent film means a lot to me."

The Kids Are All Right scribes Stuart Blumberg and Lisa Cholodenko won best screenplay honors over Bone (Granik, Anne Rosellini), Rabbit Hole (David Lindsay-Abaire), Please Give (Nicole Holofcener), and Life During Wartime (Todd Solondz).

Community star Joel McHale hosted the proceedings, which returned to Santa Monica beach after a move to downtown L.A. last year that encouraged more glitz and formality but drew criticism for the same reasons. Film Independent executive director Dawn Hudson and the rest of the board opted to return the awards to its longtime home in Santa Monica.

Presenters for the 26th iteration of the event included John Waters, Anna Kendrick, Josh Radnor, Ben Stiller, Paul Rudd, Eva Mendes, Kerry Washington and Diego Luna.

Best first feature honors went to Sony Pictures Classic's Get Low, from director Aaron Schneider and producers David Gundlach and Dean Zanuck
.

Exit Through the Gift Shop, another Oscar nominee, took home best documentary feature honors. The film's subject Thierry Guetta, aka Mr. Brainwash, accepted the award on behalf of elusive director Bansky and assured the audience that the documentary was real. "If you have a dream, just make it possible," he said. "I love everybody."

The King's Speech won best foreign film (as opposed to best foreign-language film).

Film Independent previously announced its grant recepients at a separate ceremony last month.

Mike Ott, director of Litttlerock, which tells of two Japanese siblings who find themselves in a small California town, received the 17th annual Acura Someone to Watch Award. The prize, which recognizes a talented filmmaker who has not yet received major recognition, includes a $25,000 unrestricted grant funded by Acura.
 
The other finalists were Hossein Keshavarz for Dog Sweat and Laurel Nakadate for The Wolf Knife.
 
Another grant award went to Anish Savjani, producer of Meek's Cutoff, who received the 14th annual Piaget Producers Award, which honors emerging producers. The other finalists were In-Ah Lee for Au Revoir Taipei and Adele Romanski for The Myth of the American Sleepover.
 
Jeff Malmberg, director of Marwencol, received the 16th annual Aveeno Truer Than Fiction Award, which is presented to an emerging director of non-fiction features. The other finalists were Ilisa Barbash and Lucien Castaing-Taylor for Sweetgrass and Lynn True and Nelson Walker for Summer Pasture.
 
Marwencol also received the inaugural Jameson Find Your Audience Award, which makes it possible for one Spirit Award-nominated film to find a broader audience. The grant, a $50,000 marketing and distribution grant funded by Jameson Irish Whiskey, was designed to help independent filmmakers get their films out into the marketplace. It was selected by a committee that consisted of Warner Bros. head of worldwide marketing Sue Kroll, producer Effie T. Brown, CEO of Landmark Theatres Ted Mundorff and producer Gail Mutrux.

Saturday's award ceremony will be broadcast by IFC tonight at 7 p.m. EST/10 p.m. PST.

Click here or below for Spirit Award winners list

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2011 Film Independent Spirit Award Winners:

BEST FEATURE 

Black Swan
Producers: Scott Franklin, Mike Medavoy, Arnold W. Messer, Brian Oliver


BEST DIRECTOR 

Darren Aronofsky, Black Swan

BEST SCREENPLAY 

Stuart Blumberg, Lisa Cholodenko- The Kids Are All Right

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

Get Low
Director: Aaron Schneider
Producers: David Gundlach, Dean Zanuck


BEST FIRST SCREENPLAY 

Lena Dunham, Tiny Furniture

JOHN CASSAVETES AWARD - Given to the best feature made for under $500,000.
Daddy Longlegs
Writer/Directors: Benny Safdie, Josh Safdie

Producers: Casey Neistat, Tom Scott


BEST FEMALE LEAD 

Natalie Portman- Black Swan

BEST MALE LEAD

James Franco, 127 Hours

BEST SUPPORTING FEMALE

Dale Dickey- Winter's Bone

BEST SUPPORTING MALE

John Hawkes- Winter's Bone


BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY

Matthew Libatique- Black Swan

BEST DOCUMENTARY (Award given to the director) 

Exit Through the Gift Shop
Director: Banksy


BEST FOREIGN FILM (Award given to the director) 

The King's Speech 
(United Kingdom)
Director: Tom Hooper


ROBERT ALTMAN AWARD - (Given to one film's director, casting director, and its ensemble cast)

Please Give
Director: Nicole Holofcener


Casting Director: Jeanne McCarthy 

Ensemble Cast: Ann Guilbert, Rebecca Hall, Catherine Keener, Amanda Peet, Oliver Platt, Lois Smith, Sarah Steele


ACURA 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 funded by Acura.

Mike Ott,
 Littlerock



AVEENO® TRUER THAN FICTION AWARD – Presented to an emerging director of non-fiction features who has not yet received significant recognition. The award includes a $25,000 unrestricted grant funded by AVEENO®
Jeff Malmberg, Marwencol


PIAGET 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 funded by Piaget.
Anish Savjani, Meek's Cutoff

Additional reporting by Stacey Wilson, Gregg Kilday, Lindsay Powers and Sofia M. Fernandez.