The nominations for the 15th annual IFP/West Independent Spirit Awards were announced last week, with Steven Soderbergh's The Limey and Alexander Payne's Election leading the field with five apiece.

The Spirits, which now take place in Santa Monica the day before the Academy Award ceremony, have grown in prestige in recent years and are generally seen as the indie alternative to the Oscars. Last year, Gods And Monsters, Rushmore, The Opposite Of Sex and The Celebration dominated the awards; most of those films were ignored by the Academy.

Joining The Limey and Election as best film nominees are The Straight Story, Sugar Town and Cookie's Fortune; nominees for best first feature which cost over $500,000 are Being John Malkovich, Boys Don't Cry, Three Seasons, Twin Falls Idaho and Xiu Xiu The Sent Down Girl. Nominees for best first feature under $500,000 are The Blair Witch Project, La Ciudad, Compensation, Judy Berlin and Treasure Island.

Director nominees are Payne and Soderbergh, David Lynch for The Straight Story, Harmony Korine for julien donkey-boy and Doug Liman for Go. Nominees for the best foreign film are Pedro Almodovar's All About My Mother, Tom Tykwer's Run Lola Run, Udayan Prasad's My Son The Fanatic, Mike Leigh's Topsy-Turvy and Luc and Jean-Pierre Dardenne's Rosetta.

Other leading films were Boys Don't Cry and The Straight Story with four nominations each and Being John Malkovich, Judy Berlin and Cookie's Fortune with three each.

Winners will be selected from the nominations by the 9,000-strong US membership of Independent Feature Project (IFP).