Gotham Awards: 'Nomadland' Wins Best Feature, Audience Award

There were two ties, in the categories of best screenplay and best documentary.

In an unusual time, the 2021 Gotham Awards presented an unconventional live and virtual hybrid event from New York on Monday night.

With Jeffrey Sharp, the executive director of Gotham Awards presenting organization, the Gotham Film and Media Institute, formerly known as IFP, in person along with a handful of presenters at a largely empty Cipriani Wall Street, and winners joining the show via live video, the 30th annual Gotham Awards honored a diverse group of projects and figures in independent film.

Chloé Zhao's Nomadland won two awards--best feature and the audience award. Zhao, in particular, thanked the film festivals from the past year.

"They truly showed us and reminded us that we're not alone," she said via video. "That we have a community, a strong community, that is brought together by our love for cinema. So thank you for getting us through last year."

While Kelly Reichardt's First Cow went into the night nominated for a leading four awards, it went home empty-handed.

Sound of Metal's Riz Ahmed won best actor and Miss Juneteenth's Nicole Beharie won best actress.

Other winners included One Night in Miami's Kingsley Ben-Adir (breakthrough actor), The Vast of Night's Andrew Patterson (Bingham Ray Breakthrough Director Award) and two ties in the categories of best screenplay and best documentary. On the TV side, HBO's Watchmen and I May Destroy You won breakthrough series - long format (over 40 minutes) and breakthrough series - short format (under 40 minutes), respectively.

A number of winners, including Beharie, Ben-Adir and Forty-Year-Old Version's Radha Blank (a co-winner for best screenplay) seemed truly shocked to win.

And, as many veterans of video calls during the pandemic have experienced, there were a handful of audio issues as some recipients weren't sure if their sound was working or if they had indeed heard that they won.

"I think I'm supposed to be speaking now but I'm hearing so many different people talking and I can hear myself. I don't know what's going on," Ben-Adir said in part at the beginning of his acceptance speech, noting that he was sitting in a hotel in London and had been drinking Champagne, looking forward to celebrating the evening. Ben-Adir thanked Regina King for giving him the chance to investigate Malcolm X. While he admitted he hadn't seen all of the nominees in his category, he was looking forward to doing so, and praised fellow nominee Sidney Flanigan, from Never Rarely Sometimes Always.

"You blew me away," he told Flanigan, saying her "emotional range is superb."

Blank repeated multiple times that she was "really thrown" by her win and thanked those who helped her "translate" her screenplay into the Netflix film.

In addition to competitive awards, the show presented five tributes throughout the evening to Chadwick Boseman (actor tribute, posthumous), Viola Davis (actress tribute), Steve McQueen (director tribute), Ryan Murphy (industry tribute) and the cast of The Trial of Chicago 7 (the inaugural ensemble tribute). 

All of the living tribute recipients accepted their honors via pre-recorded video addresses, after introductions from their collaborators.

Ma Rainey's Black Bottom director George C. Wolfe presented his star Davis with her honor, pointing out how Rainey and Davis have similar qualities including intelligence, strength, generosity and "demanding she be treated with respect and acutely aware of her work."

Davis, Wolfe added, "gives all she has bring her characters to life. She imbues them with everything she has: her heart, her ferocious brain, her deep...command of craft and a purity...of heart and passion and fire and rage and generosity. And because of all of those qualities that she has, every single one of her characters transcend and built into her work is not just the marvel of her talent but the ability to heal, to empower and to connect so deeply to us as an audience and to us as human beings."

Davis said she was "so proud" to be part of Ma Rainey and August Wilson's legacy "of autonomy and agency."

Davis' Ma Rainey costar, the late Boseman, was recognized by his 42 co-star Andre Holland, who was one of the few stars to appear in person at the New York event. Holland recalled how, while waiting at an airport in Kansas City during the movie's opening weekend, they were spotted by a group of young people whose faces "lit up" as they "freaked out" at the sight of the man who played Jackie Robinson. As Boseman posed for photos and hugged his fans, Holland recalled, a look passed over Boseman's face that was a mix of "shock, flattery, an acknowledgement that life would never be same and confidence that he was ready to meet that moment."

"He was a special artist, a wonderful human; he made everybody better," Holland said of Boseman, who died this summer after a secret battle with colon cancer. "I'm forever grateful he was my friend."

After a highlight reel of Boseman's work played, during which Holland urged people to engage in a moment of silent celebration, his widow, Simone Ledward Boseman, accepted the award on his behalf via video.

Of her late husband, she said in part, appearing emotional at times, "He was able to give himself over fully to every moment, to be totally present in his own life and in the lives of the people he became. He was blessed to live many lives within his concentrated one."

She added that when he was acting, he was "modeling for us a path to true fulfillment. May we not let his conviction be in vain."

Speaking to Boseman, she told him to "keep shining your light on us." Ahmed also paid tribute to Boseman as he accepted his award and recalled the rough past year.

The Chicago 7 stars accepted their award, after an introduction by writer-director Aaron Sorkin, via video, with each cast member sharing a few lines of a speech about the parallels between the film's setting of 1968 and 2020, that read in part: "Just as revolutionary activist Fred Hampton was assassinated in the midst of the trial, George Floyd, Rayshard Brooks, Breonna Taylor and countless other innocents have been tragically murdered at the hands of police over the past year. Half a century after the events of the trial of the Chicago 7, peaceful protesters have once again been teargassed and confronted with police and riot clubs and federal troops in the streets of a bitterly divided country. Meanwhile political gridlock and stubbornness continue to plague our own leaders, mirroring the intellectual sparring of what is perceived to be correct goals that you see in our film. The echoes have been unmistakable. But if nothing else, they remind us of the work still to be done in bridging the divide. The Trial of the Chicago 7 happened then, but it's happening now, and it's destined to keep happening until America lives up to its founding ideals of liberty and justice for all. … They say history has a tendency to repeat itself unless we can learn from it by telling its most important stories."

McQueen was honored by his 12 Years a Slave star Lupita Nyong'o, who called her director a "conduit for truth...[who] loves to tackle difficult narrative and thrives at it."

McQueen, in his video acceptance speech, said he was "lucky" to have told stories about subjects he really cares about and while all of his works have been "passion project," his latest anthology of five films, Small Axe, is his "most personal" work.

McQueen explained how he wanted to illuminate stories that had been "swept under the carpet" and understand the "influence that these stories have on the everyday."

After being introduced by his Prom star Nicole Kidman, Murphy spoke about supporting inclusivity in front of and behind the camera.

"This has been a challenging year for all of us, and for many, tragic," he said. "More than ever we've seen global audiences turn to stories to help them through unfathomably difficult times. To be part of an industry that has had the privilege of entertaining in a year like 2020, when people have needed to escape...is an honor for me."

Additionally, Jeffrey Wright was recognized with the Made in NY award.

Recent Gotham Award winners have included Oscar nominees and winners Marriage Story, American Factory, Call Me by Your Name, Moonlight, Spotlight, Birdman, Boyhood, Citizenfour, Inside Llewyn Davis, The Act of Killing, Moonrise Kingdom, Beasts of the Southern Wild, Beginners, The Tree of Life, Winter’s Bone and The Hurt Locker.

The full list of this year's winners follows.

Best Feature

Nomadland (WINNER)
Chloé Zhao, director; Frances McDormand, Peter Spears, Mollye Asher, Dan Janvey, Chloé Zhao, producers (Searchlight Pictures)

The Assistant
Kitty Green, director; Scott Macaulay, James Schamus, P. Jennifer Dana, Ross Jacobson, producers (Bleecker Street)

First Cow
Kelly Reichardt, director; Neil Kopp, Vincent Savino, Anish Savjani, producers (A24)

Never Rarely Sometimes Always
Eliza Hittman, director; Adele Romanski, Sara Murphy, producers (Focus Features)

Relic
Natalie Erika James, director; Anna Mcleish, Sarah Shaw, Jake Gyllenhaal, Riva Marker, producers (IFC Midnight)

Best Documentary

A Thousand Cuts (WINNER-TIE)
Ramona S. Diaz, director; Ramona S. Diaz, Leah Marino, Julie Goldman, Christopher Clements, Carolyn Hepburn, producers (PBS Distribution | FRONTLINE)

Time (WINNER-TIE)
Garrett Bradley, director; Lauren Domino, Kellen Quinn, Garrett Bradley, producers (Amazon Studios)

76 Days
Hao Wu, Weixi Chen, Anonymous, directors; Hao Wu, Jean Tsien, producers (MTV Documentary Films)

City Hall
Frederick Wiseman, director; Frederick Wiseman, Karen Konicek, producers (Zipporah Films)

Our Time Machine
Yang Sun, S. Leo Chiang directors; S. Leo Chiang, Yang Sun, producers (Passion River Films)

Best International Feature

Identifying Features (WINNER)
Fernanda Valadez, director; Astrid Rondero, producer (Kino Lorber)

Bacurau
Kleber Mendonça Filho, Juliano Dornelles, directors; Emilie Lesclaux, Saïd Ben Saïd, Michel Merkt, producers (Kino Lorber)

Beanpole
Kantemir Balagov, director; Alexander Rodnyansky, Sergey Melkumov, producers (Kino Lorber)

Cuties (Mignonnes)
Maïmouna Doucouré, director; Zangro, producer (Netflix)

Martin Eden
Pietro Marcello, director; Pietro Marcello, Beppe Caschetto, Thomas Ordonneau, Michael Weber, Viola Fügen, producers (Kino Lorber)

Wolfwalkers
Tomm Moore, Ross Stewart, directors; Paul Young, Nora Twomey, Tomm Moore, Stéphan Roelants, producers (Apple)

Bingham Ray Breakthrough Director Award
Andrew Patterson for The Vast of Night (Amazon Studios) (WINNER)
Radha Blank for The Forty-Year-Old Version (Netflix)
Channing Godfrey Peoples for Miss Juneteenth (Vertical Entertainment)
Alex Thompson for Saint Frances (Oscilloscope Laboratories)
Carlo Mirabella-Davis for Swallow (IFC Films)

Best Screenplay
The Forty-Year-Old Version, Radha Blank (Netflix) (WINNER - TIE)
Fourteen,
Dan Sallitt (Grasshopper Film) (WINNER - TIE)
Bad Education
, Mike Makowsky (HBO)
First Cow, Jon Raymond, Kelly Reichardt (A24)
The Vast of Night, James Montague, Craig Sanger (Amazon Studios)

Best Actor
Riz Ahmed in Sound of Metal (Amazon Studios) (WINNER)
Chadwick Boseman in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom (Netflix)
Jude Law in The Nest (IFC Films)
John Magaro in First Cow (A24)
Jesse Plemons in I’m Thinking of Ending Things (Netflix)

Best Actress
Nicole Beharie in Miss Juneteenth (Vertical Entertainment) (WINNER)
Jessie Buckley in I’m Thinking of Ending Things (Netflix)
Yuh-Jung Youn in Minari (A24)
Carrie Coon in The Nest (IFC Films)
Frances McDormand in Nomadland (Searchlight Pictures)

Breakthrough Actor
Kingsley Ben-Adir in One Night in Miami … (Amazon Studios) (WINNER)
Jasmine Batchelor in The Surrogate (Monument Releasing)
Sidney Flanigan in Never Rarely Sometimes Always (Focus Features)
Orion Lee in First Cow (A24)
Kelly O’Sullivan in Saint Frances (Oscilloscope Laboratories)

Breakthrough Series – Long Format (over 40 minutes)

Watchmen, Damon Lindelof, Creator for Television; Tom Spezialy, Nicole Kassell, Stephen Williams, Joseph E. Iberti, executive producers (HBO) (WINNER)

The Great, Tony McNamara, creator; Tony McNamara, Marian Macgowan, Mark Winemaker, Elle Fanning, Brittany Kahan Ward, Doug Mankoff, Andrew Spaulding, Josh Kesselman, Ron West, Matt Shakman, executive producers (Hulu)

Immigration Nation, Christina Clusiau, Shaul Schwarz, Dan Cogan, Jenny Raskin, Brandon Hill, Christian Thompson, executive producers (Netflix)

P-Valley, Katori Hall, creator; Katori Hall, Dante Di Loreto, Peter Chernin, Jenno Topping, Liz W. Garcia, executive producers (Starz)

Unorthodox, Anna Winger, Alexa Karolinski , creators; Anna Winger, Henning Kamm, executive producers (Netflix)

Breakthrough Series – Short Format (under 40 minutes)

I May Destroy You, Michaela Coel, creator; Michaela Coel, Phil Clarke, Roberto Troni, executive producers (HBO) (WINNER)

Betty, Crystal Moselle, Lesley Arfin, Igor Srubshchik, Jason Weinberg, executive producers (HBO)

Dave, Dave Burd, Jeff Schaffer, creators; Dave Burd, Jeff Schaffer, Saladin K. Patterson, Greg Mottola, Kevin Hart, Marty Bowen, Scooter Braun, Mike Hertz, Scott Manson, James Shin, executive producers (FX Networks)

Taste the Nation, Padma Lakshmi, David Shadrack Smith, Sarina Roma, executive producers (Hulu)

Work in Progress, Abby McEnany, Tim Mason, creators, Abby McEnany, Tim Mason, Lilly Wachowski, Lawrence Mattis, Josh Adler, Ashley Berns, Julia Sweeney, Tony Hernandez, executive producers (Showtime)

Audience Award (nominees are the 20 films nominated for best feature, best documentary, best international feature and the Bingham Ray Breakthrough Director Award)

Nomadland (WINNER)