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The "Spirit" of Independent Film Making honoured in LA

Jason Korsner reporting from Los Angeles. Photos available at http://www.ukscreen.com/gallery.htm?user=jkinla
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The big event in the film awards calendar, the day before the Oscars, is the Independent Spirit Awards, which honour low budget films, made outside the major studio system. The event, held in a marquee on the beach in Santa Monica is a much more relaxed affair than the Oscars, with many stars dressing down and much better viewing access for members of the public, taking a stroll along the beach.
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Depending on how the nominee list compares with the Oscars, there can be a good turn-out of big names and this year was no exception, with the likes of Alan Arkin, Forest Whitaker and Ryan Gosling nominated in both competitions. But this was the day when stars and other talent behind smaller films, such as Thank You For Smoking, A Guide To Recognising Your Saints and American Gun got to shine.
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The big winners of the night were Little Miss Sunshine (for best picture, best directors – there were two of them – and best first screenplay) and Half Nelson (which won best leading actor and best leading actress, for Ryan Gosling and Shareeka Epps respectively).
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It was a good year for British filmmakers too, with Mat Whitecross there to collect the best documentary award for The Road To Guantanamo, Alan Cumming being voted the best first-time producer, for Sweet Land, and the best low budget film – Echo Park (Quinceañera) – was directed by Wash Westmoreland.
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The full list of winners:
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Best Feature: Little Miss Sunshine
Best Director: Jonathon Dayton & Valerie Faris for Little Miss Sunshine
Best Screenplay: Thank You For Smoking, by Jason Reitman
Best First Screenplay: Little Miss Sunshine, by Michael Arndt.
Best First Feature: Sweet Land, directed by Ali Selim and produced by Alan Cumming, James Bigham and Ali Selim
Best Feature under 500,000: Quinceañera by Richard Glatzer & Wash Westmoreland
Best Female Lead: Shareeka Epps in Half Nelson
Best Male Lead: Ryan Gosling in Half Nelson
Best Supporting Female: Frances McDormand in Friends With Money
Best Supporting Male: Alan Arkin in Little Miss Sunshine
Best Cinematography: Guillermo Navarro for Pan’s Labyrinth
Best Foreign Film: The Lives of Others, by Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck
Best Documentary: The Road to Guantanamo, by Michael Winterbottom and Mat Whitecross

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