Don Cheadle receives LAFF's Spirit of Independence Award

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It didn't take long for Los Angeles Film Festival director Rich Raddon to discover that the recipient of this year's Spirit of Independence Award proved to be a particularly popular choice.

"You really do get a sense of how much Don Cheadle is admired by all the e-mails I received when people found out," Raddon says. "He really is one of those individuals in town who, whichever project he's involved with, always seems to elevate it."

Awarded annually by the festival to individuals who exemplify a certain level of artistic integrity -- past honorees have included Clint Eastwood, George Clooney and Charlize Theron -- the prize reflects the choices those individuals have made during the course of their careers.

"He's such a talented actor and really does define the spirit of independence in every way, from his choices of material to the way he uses his celebrity to support the causes he believes in," adds Film Independent executive director Dawn Hudson.

Taking into consideration his Darfur-related humanitarian efforts and his history of helping socially relevant films get made (he received a producer credit on 2006's best picture Oscar winner, "Crash"), the 43-year-old Cheadle is a natural choice for the award.

Festival organizers got a chance to get to know him a little better last year, when he attended the LAFF opening night launch of "Talk to Me," in which he played the irrepressible Ralph Waldo "Petey" Green, the Washington, D.C., radio deejay whose tell-it-like-it-is style made him a popular '60s personality.

"I thought his performance was very much overlooked during awards season," Raddon says. "When we look at people to honor, we're also considering those who didn't receive the recognition that we felt they should have, so it's nice we can honor Don in this way."

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