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“This is what we do on our Sundays: come down, sit in a tent,” observed Taika Waititi during the 2022 Film Independent Spirit Awards ceremony. The fete returned to the beach in Santa Monica after last year’s show was moved online due to the continuing COVID-19 pandemic. Waititi, who was presenting his FX series Reservation Dogs with best ensemble cast, continued: “If you’re in a tent, you’re camping. Get over yourselves, you’re fucking camping.”
Inside that tent Sunday, the show’s major winners were Maggie Gyllenhaal and her directorial debut, The Lost Daughter, with onscreen representation and the war in Ukraine fueling conversation and acceptance speeches.
The Lost Daughter marks the first time that Netflix won best film at the awards show, having had titles in the race in 2020 (Marriage Story) and 2021 (Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom). “More than anything, we really want to thank all of the parents — especially the mothers — that came to us after seeing this movie and felt that they were seen; that their experiences are onscreen,” said producer Osnat Handelsman-Keren.
Gyllenhaal took the award for best screenplay and best director, one of the four women nominated in the five-person directing category. The Spirit Award nominees for directing represented an inverse of the Academy Awards best director race, with four men and one woman (The Power of the Dog‘s Jane Campion) up for the honor. Outside of Chloé Zhao (Nomadland) and Gyllenhaal, only two other women have won in the category — Martha Coolidge in 1991 for Rambling Rose and Sofia Coppola in 2003 for Lost in Translation.
Gyllenhaal began tearing up on stage accepting the best director award, presented by last year’s winner Zhao, saying, “I love independent film. I grew up making independent film. I love watching film. Everyone here in this tent has scrambled to get their movies made.”
Elsewhere, CODA actor Troy Kotsur continued to make history, winning the best supporting male at the Sunday ceremony, becoming the first deaf actor to earn a Spirit Award. Kotsur also recently became the first deaf actor to win an individual SAG Award and is the first deaf man to earn an Oscar nomination and the second deaf actor nominated in the show’s history. (CODA co-star Marlee Matlin was the first deaf actor to be nominated and win an Oscar for Children of a Lesser God.) “I can feel the spirits of the arts,” said Kotsur during his awards speech, the first of the afternoon.
A24 titles took both lead acting prizes. Simon Rex won for Red Rocket, with Taylour Paige winning for Zola, which was the ceremony’s most-nominated title, also earning the best editing award for Joi McMillon. Elsewhere, Drive My Car won the honor for best international film; the award was presented during the commercial break, which came as a surprise. Traditionally, the award is presented during the telecast, with off-air awards being best cinematography and best editing.
For only the second year, the Spirit Awards recognized creatives’ work in television. The awards ran across five categories, with winners including Thuso Mbedu, who earned the best female performance in a new scripted series for The Underground Railroad; and Squid Game actor Lee Jung-jae, who took the male honor. Reservation Dogs earned best new scripted series, with members of the majority native cast and crew taking the stage. “We don’t want a handout, we just want an opportunity to tell our stories,” said series co-creator Sterlin Harjo, who acknowledged that the Santa Monica ceremony was taking place on the traditional lands of the Tongva people.
The FX series was also awarded the best ensemble cast, presented by an animated Waititi, who co-created and executive produces the show with Harjo. Star Devery Jacobs began the acceptance speech: “Each of us come from different nations across Turtle Island that survived 500 years of colonization. And in the 100 years of film and TV, Reservation Dogs marks the first project with all indigenous creatives at the helm.” Actress Paulina Alexis continued the thank-yous, adding, “To the Tongva nation, who host each of us here tonight in their traditional and rightful territory.”
Summer of Soul won best documentary, with director Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson offering thanks multiple times to his fellow nominees, which included fellow Oscar nominees Flee and Ascension. Offered Thompson: “The world is burning outside but we are in here celebrating. For artists, it’s very hard to push forward so I thank all of the people in this category.”
Russia’s continued invasion of Ukraine was also on the minds of everyone, from hosts to presenters to winners.
“I would like to express my solidarity for the peoples of Ukraine,” said Ruth Negga while accepting her best supporting female award for Passing, remotely. Host Nick Offerman and Megan Mullally said that they offered their “best wishes” to those in the country. “I think we speak for everyone here when we say we are hoping for a quick and peaceful resolution. Specifically, fuck off and go home Putin,” said Mullally, before she and Offerman raised their middle fingers to the camera.
See the full winners list of the 2022 Film Independent Spirit Awards here.
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