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'American Honey', 'Moonlight' lead 2017 Spirit Award nominations

Andrea Arnold’s American Honey and Barry Jenkins’ Moonlight each earned six nods as Film Independent announced its 2017 Spirit Award nominees on Tuesday.

Amazon Studios’ Manchester By The Sea written and directed by Kenneth Lonergan – which opened last weekend on the highest per-screen average in theatrical partner Roadside Attraction’s 13-year history – picked up five nominations.

Newcomer Robert Eggers earned two nods for The Witch in a great day for A24, which financed and distributes Moonlight, and distributed American Honey, Morris From America, and Swiss Army Man, and has 20th Century Women on the runway for a December launch.

American Honey and Moonlight will vie for the best feature prize alongside Manchester By The Sea, Fox Searchlight’s Jackie and Monument Releasing’s Chronic.

The category has become a bona fide harbinger of Oscar success as best feature winners Spotlight, Birdman and 12 Years A Slave all went on to claim the Academy Award best picture statuette in the last three years.

American Honey’s Arnold is one of two women in the mix for the directing prize alongside Kelly Reichardt for IFC Films’ Certain Women. Rounding out the quality category are Jenkins for Moonlight, Chilean auteur Pablo Larrain for Fox Searchlight’s Jackie, and Jeff Nichols for Focus Features’ Loving.

In one of the biggest surprises of the morning, Lonergan was not among the directing nominees, although he was recognised in the writing category and is likely to rebound in the weeks ahead as critics groups and other voting bodies unveil their selections.

The Spirit Awards generally point the way in the acting categories too, and in an exceptional year for women, American Honey’s breakout star Sasha Lane finds herself alongside a heavyweight quartet.

Annette Bening is included for 20th Century Woman, as are Natalie Portman for Jackie, Ruth Negga for Loving and Isabelle Huppert for SPC’s Elle – all four are among the frontrunners for Oscar glory.

Venice Coppa Volpi winner Emma Stone from La La Land was always going to be absent from this list as the film’s $20m-plus budget made it ineligible for Spirit Award consideration. Similarly, the budgets on Focus Features’ Nocturnal Animals and A Monster Calls ruled those films out of contention.

Casey Affleck confirmed his credentials as the Oscar frontrunner in a relatively weak year for men. He will compete for the male lead prize with Viggo Mortenesen for Bleecker Street’s Captain Fantastic, Tim Roth for Chronic, David Harewood for Free In Deed – which at time of writing did not have US distribution – and Jesse Plemons for Netflix’s Other People.

Supporting acting highlights include Riley Keough and Shia LaBeouf for American Honey, Craig Robinson for Morris From America, and Ralph Fiennes for Fox Searchlight’s A Bigger Splash.

Michelle Williams for Manchester By The Sea and Mahershala Ali and Naomie Harris from Moonlight were not recognised for their supporting roles. The Moonlight pair received attention in the Robert Altman Award for director, casting director and ensemble, and could figure prominently in individual categories as the season progresses.

Aquariussnubbed as Brazil’s foreign language Oscar submission – will vie for the best international film prize alongside Germany-Romania’s Toni Erdmann, the UK-Iran’s Under The Shadow, France’s My Golden Days, and Greece’s Chevalier.

Documentary contenders include Ana DuVernay’s 13th, Raoul Peck’s I Am Not Your Negro, and Ezra Edelman’s mini-series O.J.: Made In America.

The 32nd annual Spirit Awards will be handed out on February 25, 2017 – one day before the climax of the awards season at the 89th annual Academy Awards ceremony in Hollywood.

The nominations appear below in full:


  • American Honey
  • Chronic
  • Jackie
  • Manchester By The Sea
  • Moonlight


  • The Childhood Of A Leader
  • The Fits
  • Other People
  • Swiss Army Man
  • The Witch


  • Andrea Arnold, American Honey
  • Barry Jenkins, Moonlight
  • Pablo Larraín, Jackie
  • Jeff Nichols, Loving
  • Kelly Reichardt, Certain Women


  • Barry Jenkins and Tarell Alvin McCraney, Moonlight
  • Kenneth Lonergan, Manchester By The Sea
  • Mike Mills, 20th Century Women
  • Ira Sachs and Mauricio Zacharias, Little Men
  • Taylor Sheridan, Hell Or High Water


  • Robert Eggers, The Witch
  • Chris Kelly, Other People
  • Adam Mansbach, Barry
  • Stella Meghie, Jean Of The Joneses
  • Craig Shilowich, Christine


(Given to the best feature made for under $500,000. Award given to the writer, director and producer. Executive producers are not awarded.)

  • Free In Deed
  • Hunter Gatherer
  • Lovesong
  • Nakom
  • Spa Night


  • Casey Affleck, Manchester By The Sea
  • David Harewood, Free In Deed
  • Viggo Mortensen, Captain Fantastic
  • Jesse Plemons, Other People
  • Tim Roth, Chronic


  • Annette Bening, 20th Century Women
  • Isabelle Huppert, Elle
  • Sasha Lane, American Honey
  • Ruth Negga, Loving
  • Natalie Portman, Jackie


  • Ralph Fiennes, A Bigger Splash
  • Ben Foster, Hell Or High Water
  • Lucas Hedges, Manchester By The Sea
  • Shia LaBeouf, American Honey
  • Craig Robinson, Morris From America


  • Edwina Findley, Free In Deed
  • Paulina García, Little Men
  • Lily Gladstone, Certain Women
  • Riley Keough, American Honey
  • Molly Shannon, Other People


  • Ava Berkofsky, Free In Deed
  • Lol Crawley, The Childhood Of A Leader
  • Zach Kuperstein, The Eyes Of My Mother
  • James Laxton, Moonlight
  • Robbie Ryan, American Honey


  • Matthew Hannam, Swiss Army Man
  • Jennifer Lame, Manchester By The Sea
  • Joi McMillon and Nat Sanders, Moonlight
  • Jake Roberts, Hell Or High Water
  • Sebastián Sepúlveda, Jackie


  • Aquarius (Brazil)
  • Chevalier (Greece)
  • My Golden Days (France)
  • Toni Erdmann (Germany/Romania)
  • Under the Shadow (Iran/United Kingdom)


  • 13th
  • Cameraperson
  • I am Not Your Negro
  • O.J.: Made In America
  • Sonita
  • Under The Sun


(Given to one film’s director, casting director and ensemble cast)



(The 20th annual Producers Award, sponsored by Piaget, honours emerging producers who, despite highly limited resources, demonstrate the creativity, tenacity and vision required to produce quality, independent films. The award includes a $25,000 unrestricted grant funded by Piaget)

Lisa Kjerulff

Jordana Mollick

Melody C. Roscher and Craig Shilowich


(The 23rd annual Someone to Watch Award, sponsored by Kiehl’s Since 1851, recognises a talented filmmaker of singular vision who has not yet received appropriate recognition. The award includes a $25,000 unrestricted grant funded by Kiehl’s Since 1851)

  • Andrew Ahn, Spa Night
  • Claire Carré, Embers   
  • Anna Rose Holmer, The Fits
  • Ingrid Jungermann, Women Who Kill




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