Todd Haynes' Far From Heaven swept the board at the IFP Independent Spirit Awards on Saturday in Santa Monica, winning all five of its five nominated categories including best feature, best director for Haynes and best actress for Julianne Moore. It was the first ever Spirit win for the film's producer Christine Vachon, considered an architect of new independent cinema since her early 90s credits such as Haynes' Poison and Tom Kalin's Swoon.
But the Spirits show was just as notable for its warmly received anti-war comments as for its awards handout. Winners and presenters were positively encouraged to voice their feelings about the US war on Iraq as opposed to the Academy Award ceremony yesterday where comments were aggressively discouraged.
The show opened with Elvis Costello singing his standard Peace, Love And Understanding a cappella on stage. Screenplay winner Mike White continued the political vein: "Let's use a bit of our spirit this year to get Bush out of office," he declared.
IFP/Los Angeles executive director Dawn Hudson urged attendees in the now famous tent on Santa Monica beach to "speak out today and in your work. Use your talent to expose wrongs." Later on Don Cheadle read out a statement from the IFP board of directors. "We have a right to voice our opinions and that right to question the motives of our leaders is protected in our constitution," he said. "This administration doesn't take into account domestic and global dissent."
As expected, the outspoken Michael Moore also spoke out when accepting his award for best documentary for Bowling For Columbine. It was strange, he said, "to receive an award when we live in fictitious times. We have a fictitious president with fictitious results. He is now conducting a war for fictitious reasons." He added that "the [war's] lesson for the children of Columbine is that violence is an acceptable means to resolve a conflict."
When Dennis Quaid won his Spirit for supporting actor for Far From Heaven, he offered a "prayer for peace in the world, for the Iraqi people and our troops." Y Tu Mama Tambien's Gael Garcia Bernal addressed the audience and said that from the perspective of a Mexican, "the only way to stop this war is you." In accepting her award, Julianne Moore said: "We teach our children not to fight. Fighting's not the answer. Peace."
Other highlights included the acceptance speech of the best actor Spirit winner Derek Luke for Antwone Fisher, who said that only four years previously, he had been waiting tables at the same event.
John Waters hosted the event which featured presenters including Halle Berry, Adrien Brody, Daniel Day-Lewis, Hope Davis, Matt Dillon, Minnie Driver, William H Macy, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Robert Duvall, Sissy Spacek, Taye Diggs, Christina Ricci and Britanny Murphy.
FULL LIST OF INDEPENDENT SPIRIT WINNERS 2002
Best Feature Far From Heaven Christine Vachon, Jody Patton producers
Best Director Todd Haynes Far From Heaven
Best Screenplay Mike White The Good Girl
Best First Feature The Dangerous Lives Of Altar Boys Peter Care, director
Best First Screenplay Erin Cressida Wilson Secretary
John Cassavetes Award for best feature made for under $500,000 Personal Velocity Rebecca Miller, director Alexis Alexanian, Lemore Syvan & Gary Winick, producers
Best male lead Derek Luke Antwone Fisher
Best female lead Julianne Moore Far From Heaven
Best supporting male Dennis Quaid Far From Heaven
Best supporting female Emily Mortimer Lovely & Amazing
Best debut performance Nia Vardalos My Big Fat Greek Wedding
Best foreign film Y Tu Mama Tambien (Mexico) Alfonso Cuaron, director
Best documentary Bowling For Columbine Michael Moore, director
Turning Leaf Coastal Reserve Someone To Watch Award Przemyslaw Reut (director of Paradox Lake)
DIRECTV/IFC Truer Than Fiction Award Jennifer Dworkin Love & Diane
Motorola Producers Award Effie T Brown (producer of Real Women Have Curves & Stranger Inside