Spirit Awards: Aubrey Plaza, 'American Factory' Director Subtly Reference 2020 Election

Steven Bognar and Julia Reichert accept the Best Documentary Feature award for 'American Factory'  - Getty - H 2020
Tommaso Boddi/Getty Images

From a call for citizens to take action to a joke about Democratic presidential candidates Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, the election references were few and sometimes subtle.

The 2020 Film Independent Spirit Awards featured a handful of often subtle calls for political action.

Host Aubrey Plaza largely steered clear of politics in her opening song and pretaped segment, but as she encouraged the audience to "Get Happy," she mused about the many problems in the world, including "pollution in the air, trash in the ocean, Cats in theaters."

Later, though, while taking the awards show to a commercial break, Plaza joked that coming up there would be an "indie film trivia showdown" between Democratic presidential candidates Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, with the winner getting "the Arkansas primary and a hybrid hatchback full of fleece pullovers."

The Independent Spirit Awards took place just as the 2020 Democratic presidential primary is getting underway, with the Iowa caucuses taking place last week and the New Hampshire primary set for Tuesday.

After tech troubles led to a days-long delay in reporting the results, the Iowa Democratic Party reported Saturday that Sanders slightly trailed former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg at the top, with Warren coming in third.

The upcoming election was alluded to earlier in the show by American Factory director Julia Reichert.

Accepting the award for best documentary alongside co-director Steven Bognar, Reichert highlighted widening income inequality.

"Our film tries to ask questions about the fate of working people in Ohio, China and, really, around the world — the kind of people who punch a clock, put on a uniform, work for an hourly wage, which is most of us. And they are under more pressure for less pay with less safety," Reichert said. "Our film tries to ask the question, 'Is this the way we want the world to be?' No, it's not. And we can do something about it. We're all citizens. … We have a lot of power."

American Factory is the first film from Barack and Michelle Obama's Netflix-based production company, Higher Ground, which was mentioned during a voiceover as Reichert and Bognar took the stage. The directors also thanked the former president and first lady toward the end of their acceptance speech. Bognar also sported a pin on Saturday that read "Stop Bombing Hospitals," a message directed at Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

The awards show, celebrating the best in independent film, took place on the beach in Santa Monica and aired live on IFC.