We were on the scene at the 2020 Film Independent Spirit Awards!
The 35th Annual Film Independent Spirit Awards took place on a shockingly foggy Santa Monica morning, only a short beach walk away from the pier. Despite the blue hues giving the carpet a familiar feeling of a Big Little Lies episode, the day still started off strong.
Madeline Olnek spoke to The Knockturnal about the importance of recognizing women in film. Starring Molly Shannon, Wild Nights With Emily, is a hilarious women empowerment approach to Emily Dickinson’s poetry. Olnek is the genius behind the flick and has known Shannon for years. Olnek also details that the John Cassavettes Award (the one in which they are nominated for) is honored to those who embrace their uniqueness as the award supports the “truly independent outside of the system film.”
When it comes to spreading awareness to successful independent filmmaking on a low budget, Olnek spoke about how making a movie on less funding does not mean sacrificing the quality of the film. Turning the conversation to how low budget films are an important opportunity for women in the entertainment industry, Olnek touches on the opportunity it gives for female directors specifically. However, according to Olnek, the idea that female directors rarely exist in the role of director is untrue.
“When people say there aren’t a lot of women directors… There’s a ton of women directors.”
Alvaro Delgado is making waves as he is a Mexican director nominated for Best Directing Film International. Retablo is a story that looks at the complex relationship between a boy and his father in a small village of Peru. He brings a traditional retablo as a prop on the carpet and shows us the brightly colored designs as he opens it up for us to peak inside.
Representation, whether it’s the topic of sexuality, gender identity, race, ethnicity, etc. seemed to be the overarching theme of importance for the nominee recipients of this year’s awards. Screenwriters, Fredrica Bailey and Stefon Bristol, spoke about their film, See You Yesterday, portraying police brutality.
“There’s this terrible idea that black people are prone to violence,” Stefon Bristol said.
He uses the example of how if a black man were to rob a convenience store, then people automatically assume that he deserves the abuse that police brutality victims face.
“Anytime there’s a victim of police brutality, there’s some kind of blemish that the media will tell, like, ‘oh he deserves this because he sold weed…’ or ‘…he robbed a bodega!’ Whatever… that’s never the case. That doesn’t mean they deserve to be killed and shot.”
The stars of Premature talked about the importance of sharing a unique love story, especially coming from a perspective within the black community. Zora Howard and Rashaad Ernesto Green elaborate on the need for a story to be told that allows the audience to witness pure joy from a black couple. Green explains that despite the hardships people of color may entail because of racism in America, everyone deserves love.
Darren Dean, one of the producers of Premature, is a true romantic at heart. He speaks to this truth as he spills about his own love life when saying that Valentine’s Day (February 14th) is he and his wife’s anniversary date.
Bryon Bowers spoke about working with the magnificent cast of Honeyboy this past year. With a background in standup comedy, Bowers wasn’t expecting to work with box office mega-stars Shia LeBouf and newly discovered but extremely seasoned, Noah Jupe.
“I felt like a rookie. I absorbed a lot and I learned a lot,” Bowers said.
Davy Rothbart directed 17 Blocks over the course of 20 years. Two decades of footage using only a camcorder, the Sanford family documents their struggle with drug addiction and gun violence through a journey of loss and love. With the family losing a member to gun violence, Rothbart aimed to have the outside world walk through the tragedy with the Sanfords in such an intimate way that he hopes those who do see the film, will be moved enough to get involved and take action. He praises the Film Independent Spirit Awards for shedding light on issues that wouldn’t have the access to share their stories. He knows this platform can act as a voice to those who are often voiceless. Rothbart also opens up about his opinion on less mainstream films having minimal ways to be seen due to their lack of funding. However, Rothbart makes it clear he still supports major award shows like the Oscars. The 92nd Academy Awards were held the following day, Sunday the 9th, at the Dolby Theatre in LA with millions of viewers tuning in. While 17 Blocks may never be an Avengers level-blockbuster hit, the team behind it could change the lives of many through their approach for change with grassroots organizations.
“It’s special to have the opportunity to share that story in a voice that is very far from the spotlight.”
On the contrary, the spotlight was gleaming bright as A-list celebs hit the carpet much later in the day. Oscar nominee, Renee Zelleweger, sported a jet black, tailored-to-perfection, Christian Dior Haute Couture pantsuit.
JLO shocked the dozens of fans lined up the boardwalk as they realized she meant business as she came ready with a freshly chopped bob. No more long locks or Oscars buzz as the consensus agreed she was snubbed for a Hustlers nomination. However, she’s consistently stayed at the top of her game all award season long with looks that had us begging for her ab routine and style secrets.
Other highlights included getting a sweet wave from not only the star of Marriage Story, Scarlett Johansson, but also from Hollywood’s golden girl, Laura Dern. It’s no surprise Laura Dern has been the talk of the town for her incredible performances this year but she did look shocked when Glee star, Alex Newell, belted out a song on-stage singing the lyrics “Laura Dern” a countless amount of times with a full blown gospel choir in the background. This standout moment alone goes to show predictions mean nothing when it comes to the twists and turns award show season can bring.
Here is the complete list of winners at the 2020 Independent Spirit Awards
The Farewell (A24)
Producers: Anita Gou, Daniele Melia, Andrew Miano, Peter Saraf, Marc Turtletaub, Lulu Wang, Chris Weitz, Jane Zheng
Benny Safdie & Josh Safdie, Uncut Gems (A24)
Noah Baumbach, Marriage Story (Netflix)
Best First Feature:
Booksmart (Annapurna Pictures/United Artists Releasing)
Director: Olivia Wilde
Producers: Chelsea Barnard, David Distenfeld, Jessica Elbaum, Megan Ellison,
Best First Screenplay:
Fredrica Bailey & Stefon Bristol, See You Yesterday (Netflix)
John Cassavetes Award (For best feature made under $500,000):
Give Me Liberty (Music Box Films)
Writer/Director/Producer: Kirill Mikhanovsky
Writer/Producer: Alice Austen
Producers: Val Abel, Wally Hall, Michael Manasseri, George Rush, Sergey Shtern
Best Supporting Female:
Zhao Shuzhen, The Farewell (A24)
Best Supporting Male:
Willem Dafoe, The Lighthouse (A24)
Best Female Lead:
Renée Zellweger, Judy (Roadside Attractions)
Best Male Lead:
Adam Sandler, Uncut Gems (A24)
Robert Altman Award:
Marriage Story (Netflix)
Director: Noah Baumbach
Casting Directors: Douglas Aibel, Francine Maisler
Ensemble Cast: Alan Alda, Laura Dern, Adam Driver, Julie Hagerty, Scarlett Johansson, Ray Liotta, Azhy Robertson, Merritt Wever
Jarin Blaschke, The Lighthouse (A24)
Ronald Bronstein & Benny Safdie, Uncut Gems (A24)
Best International Film:
Parasite (South Korea—Neon)
Director: Bong Joon-Ho
American Factory (Netflix)
Director/Producer: Steven Bognar & Julia Reichert
Producers: Julie Parker Benello, Jeff Reichert
Aubrey Plaza hosted the 2020 Independent Spirit Awards, which were televised live on IFC. Check out our coverage below!