‘If Beale Street Could Talk’ Wins Big at 34th Film Independent Spirit Awards

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Photo Source: Tatum Mangus/Annapurna Pictures

At the 34th annual Film Independent Spirit Awards Feb. 23, the indie side of Hollywood celebrated the best cinema of the year. Hosted by Spirit Award winner Aubrey Plaza on Santa Monica Beach, the 2019 ceremony allowed the approximately 6,000 members of Film Independent to shine the spotlight on movie makers outside the mainstream—and several artists who won’t be recognized at tomorrow night’s Academy Awards.

Writer-director Barry Jenkins’ “If Beale Street Could Talk,” his adaptation of the James Baldwin novel about a wrongfully imprisoned black man and his family, took home the best feature and directing prizes. The Annapurna Pictures film is not nominated in those corresponding Oscar categories, although first-time Spirit Award winner Regina King is in the running for supporting actress.

The industry’s lack of gender parity, particularly behind the camera, was pointed out by Plaza, Jenkins, and more. The Academy of Motion Pictures Arts & Sciences nominated no feature female directors this year and have only ever rewarded one with their best director prize; by contrast, the 2019 Spirit Awards’ category featured three nominated women—Debra Granik for “Leave No Trace,” Tamara Jenkins for “Private Life,” and Lynne Ramsay for “You Were Never Really Here”—in addition to Jenkins and Paul Schrader for “First Reformed.” “Women only make up four percent of studio directors and yet they make up 44 percent of the directors in competition at Sundance, and 60 percent of the directors nominated for this award,” pointed out Jenkins in his acceptance speech.

READ: Everything You’d Ever Need to Know About the Film Independent Spirit Awards

Ethan Hawke, also not nominated at the upcoming Oscars, earned the best actor prize for “First Reformed.” The day’s other acting winners were leading actress Glenn Close for “The Wife” and supporting actor Richard E. Grant for “Can You Ever Forgive Me?” The latter film also won the best screenplay prize for Nicole Holofcener and Jeff Whitty.

Boots Riley’s “Sorry to Bother You” took best first feature, while WGA Award winner Bo Burnham continued his streak by winning best first screenplay for “Eighth Grade.” Alfonso Cuarón’s Mexican film “Roma,” recognized for a leading 10 nominations at the Oscars, won in the international Spirit Award category.

The Bonnie Award, given to a mid-career female director, went to Granik. Alex Moratto of “Sócrates” earned Film Independent’s Someone to Watch Award. As was previously announced, Luca Guadagnino’s “Suspiria” was honored with the Robert Altman Award, given to a film’s cast, director, and casting directors. Joining Guadagnino, Avy Kaufman, and Stella Savino onstage were stars Tilda Swinton, Chloë Grace Moretz, Dakota Johnson, and more.

For a full list of winners and more on Film Independent, visit the official website. And tune into the 91st Academy Awards Feb. 24!