THR's Guide to the Independent Spirit Awards: What to Know About Saturday's Show

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John Mulaney (left) and Nick Kroll

Nick Kroll and John Mulaney will co-host the Independent Spirit Awards, which will broadcast live from Santa Monica at 2 p.m. PT Saturday on IFC.

The best of independent film will be celebrated at the 32nd Film Independent Spirit Awards, airing live on IFC on Saturday at 2 p.m. PT. The ceremony will again be held in a tent on the beach in Santa Monica, just north of the pier.

Funnymen Nick Kroll (Kroll Show, Loving) and John Mulaney (The Comeback Kid, Documentary Now!) will host the ceremony. Not only do they have comedic chops, but both actors have starred in indie films, making them natural choices to emcee the event. Although hosting together, the awards ceremony won’t be the first time that Kroll and Mulaney have joined forces. The duo worked together in the Broadway hit Oh, Hello Show, a comedy they co-created and which drew inspiration from Kroll Show. The production had a 15-week stint on Broadway, running until Jan. 22 at New York's Lyceum Theater.


American Honey and Moonlight scored a leading six Spirit nominations, followed by Manchester by the Sea with five. Trailing close behind are Other People, Free in Deed and Jackie with four noms each.

American Honey chronicles a group of teenagers traveling across the country while selling magazine subscriptions. Meanwhile, Moonlight follows a young gay black man growing up in a rough Miami neighborhood.

Competing for best feature honors are Oscar contenders Jackie, Manchester by the Sea and Moonlight. While scoring a best actor nom for an Academy Award, Casey Affleck is up for the Spirit’s best male lead prize for his Manchester role as Lee Chandler. The film is also nominated for best screenplay (Kenneth Lonergan), best editing (Jennifer Lame) and best supporting male (Lucas Hedges).

Other People is also in the running for best feature, while the film's Jesse Plemons and Molly Shannon are up for best male lead and supporting female, respectively. Writer Chris Kelly is nominated for best first screenplay for the pic, as well. 

Sasha Lane (American Honey) and Annette Bening (20th Century Women) are the only best female lead Spirit nominees not up for an Academy Award. Lane and Bening are competing against Oscar contenders Isabelle Huppert (Elle), Ruth Negga (Loving) and Natalie Portman (Jackie).

Apart from being nominated for her role as Jackie Kennedy, Portman’s film Jackie also scored a best editing Spirit nomination.

Meanwhile, O.J.: Made in America is up for best documentary feature. Its competitors include 13th, Cameraperson, Sonita, Under the Sun and I Am Not Your Negro. O.J.: Made in America recently won a Producers Guild Award.

A24 Films, an independent entertainment company, earned a notable victory by having its roster of films collectively earn a total of 19 Spirit nominations. The company released Moonlight and American Honey as well as Morris From America, 20th Century Women, Swiss Army Man and The Witch. Amazon Studios, Fox Searchlight, Magnolia and Vertical Entertainment each earned five noms.

While the nominees include a variety of Oscar contenders, Academy Awards frontrunner La La Land, as well as Nocturnal Animals and A Monster Calls, were considered ineligible to be nominated for various reasons (which could entail, among others, the awards' $20 million budget limit).

Special Awards

Apart from abiding by the traditional categories, the Film Independent Spirit Awards features special categories, accrediting films and filmmakers for unique qualifications.

The Independent Spirit John Cassavetes Award is named after actor-director-screenwriter John Cassavetes, a trailblazer of American independent film. The honor is presented to the creative team of a film that was budgeted under $500,000. Films up for the award this year include Free in Deed, Hunter Gatherer, Nakom, Lovesong and Spa Night.

The Acura Someone to Watch Award celebrates a filmmaker failing to receive enough recognition. The prize also includes a $25,000 unrestricted grant funded by Kiehl's. Filmmakers competing for the honor include Andrew Ahn (Spa Night), Ingrid Jungermann (Women Who Kill), Anna Rose Holmer (The Fits) and Claire Carré (Embers).

The Piaget Producers Award honors producers able to create quality independent films despite having limited resources. The prize also comes with a $25,000 unrestricted grant funded by Piaget. Lisa Kjerulff (The Fits), Melody C. Roscher and Craig Shilowich (Christine) and Jordana Mollick (Hello, My Name is Doris) are contenders for the award.

While no Moonlight actors were singularly nominated, the film has been chosen to receive the Robert Altman Award for its casting director, director (Barry Jenkins) and cast ensemble. The drama is also up for best screenplay, best cinematography and best editing.

The Truer Than Fiction Award celebrates emerging directors, and this year’s nominees include Kirsti Jacobson (Solitary), Sara Jordeno (Kiki) and Nanfu Wang (Holligan Sparrow).

A list of nominations can be found here.

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