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NEW YORK — Debra Granik’s chilly, backwoods drama Winter’s Bone was the big winner at the 20th anniversary Gotham Independent Film Awards, which were held Monday night at Cipriani Wall Street in New York.
The Roadside Attractions release was named best feature and also took home the prize for best ensemble performance, which was shared by Jennifer Lawrence, John Hawkes, Dale Dickey, Lauren Sweetser, Garret Dillahunt and Kevin Breznahan.
In the best feature category, Bone prevailed over the ballet drama Black Swan from Fox Searchlight and director Darren Aronofsky; Lisa Cholodenko’s The Kids Are All Right from Focus; marital drama Blue Valentine from the Weinstein Co. and Derek Cianfrance; and vampire remake Let Me In from Overture and Matt Reeves.
“The year started with getting recognition at Sundance, so that was a very intense night. It doesn’t get any easier, though, to win awards,” Granik told the Hollywood Reporter after the ceremony. “Tonight maybe is more charged, because it is about, can we keep making films. The first time you get an award is more innocent.”
As awards season kicked off, the Gothams, presented by the Independent Filmmaker Project, hailed Kevin Asch as the year’s Breakthrough Director for the First Independent Pictures release Holy Rollers, a Brooklyn-set drama about an Orthodox Jew who becomes an ecstasy dealer.
Accepting the award, Asch said, “I love movies so much. Nameless people [in here] have inspired me.” He drew laughs when he added that his mother not only supported him all his life but also invested in the film.
The Breakthrough Actor Award went to Ronald Bronstein as a part-time father in IFC Films’ Daddy Longlegs.
While, he said, acting “liberated me,” Bronstein noted that he also hopes to return to directing.
While Laura Poitras’ The Oath, which takes a critical look at the war against terrorism, was named best documentary, Davis Guggenheim’s Waiting for Superman, a doc about America’s failing education system, earned the Festival Genius Audience Award, decided by an online vote.
“I hope this award brings more attention to the kids in my movie,” Guggenheim said.
The award for Best Film Not Playing at a Theater Near You was presented to Mike Ott’s Littlerock.
The Gotham Awards focus on independently distributed features from American-born or American-based filmmakers who work within what the group calls “an economy of means.”
In addition to the competitive awards, the Gotham Awards also featured career tributes to Robert Duvall, Hilary Swank, Aronofsky and Focus CEO James Schamus.
Schamus, introduced by newly named Oscar co-host Anne Hathaway, explained the magic of Hollywood via a porn industry analogy, saying that “by putting a camera in a room, you turn something completely illegal into something legal.”
He added that he loves the Gothams and indie filmmakers and how they stay away from Hollywood mainstream because “you guys keep it illegal.”
Bill Murray lauded his Get Low costar Duvall by saying, “He is better than all of you. … He is better than me, too.”
Stanley Tucci, who co-hosted with Patricia Clarkson, commented on how far indie films have come in 20 years by observing that the indie sector is a place “where small budgets are getting even smaller.”
Exhorted IFP executive director Joana Vicente, “Now more than ever, independent film needs to figure out its future.”
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