Originally Published: March 1, 2005
The 20th Annual IFP Independent Spirit Awards aired live on the IFC network Saturday and was rebroadcast later in the evening on Bravo. Fox Searchlight’s wine and spirits comedy Sideways won big, picking up six trophies, including best feature film.
Under a huge tent in a parking lot off the beach in Santa Monica, the event, which is organized by IFP/Los Angeles, turned into a sweep on the part of the $16 million production, easily one of the priciest films in this year’s indie pack. Samuel L. Jackson was master of ceremonies, with Quentin Tarantino and Salma Hayek serving as honorary co-chairmen. IFP/LA executive director Dawn Hudson hosted the event.
Sideways was produced by Michael London, and earned awards for Alexander Payne for best director and for best screenplay. In the acting category, Paul Giamatti took home honors for best male lead, and Thomas Haden Church and Virginia Madsen clinched the supporting trophies. While accepting the best feature trophy for Sideways, London shared the stage with presenter Robin Williams, who used comic relief during his acceptance speech.
Despite the fact that Sideways clearly was a dominant favorite by the time his name was read late in the afternoon, Giamatti joked, “I just feel like this is going to be bad for my reputation.” He added, “I’m neither very spirited nor particularly independent, but it is awfully nice to be surrounded by folks who are.”
Payne used his acceptance speech for best director to say, “There can be a decent-sized audience for ‘human films’ which go against the grain of commercial Hollywood product, and so use ‘Sideways’ as an example to get your film made.”
An elated Madsen brought her son Jack onstage, but Church was the most emotional of the film’s group, tearing up as he accepted his supporting male actor award. “I want to thank Alexander for giving me another shot,” Church said before pausing and admitting, “It’s hard not to cry.”
The female lead statuette went to Catalina Sandino Moreno, who plays a reluctant drug runner in HBO Films/Fine Line Features’ Maria Full of Grace. The film’s writer-director, Joshua Marston, received an award for best first screenplay. While accepting his award, Marston thanked “my four wonderful actresses” and offered a special shout-out to HBO Films executive Maude Nadler, who championed the film.
Zach Braff’s directorial debut, Fox Searchlight’s Garden State, was named best first feature. Braff also praised Fox Searchlight and its president, Peter Rice.
Jacob Aaron Estes’ Mean Creek, released by Paramount Classics, took the John Cassavetes Award for best feature made for less than $500,000. The film also received a Special Distinction Award for its ensemble cast, which included Rory Culkin, Ryan Kelley, Scott Mechlowicz, Trevor Morgan, Josh Peck and Carly Schroeder.
The Spirit Award for best debut performance was taken home by Rodrigo de la Serna, who plays Che Guevara’s buddy in Focus Features’ The Motorcycle Diaries. The film also earned Eric Gautier an award for best cinematography.
Alejandro Amenabar’s Spanish-language The Sea Inside, was named best foreign film. IFC Films’ Metallica: Some Kind of Monster, directed by Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky, was named best documentary. Gina Kwon, producer of the 2005 Sundance entries Me and You and Everyone We Know and The Motel, received the Bravo/American Express Producers Award. Jem Cohen, director of the documentary feature Chain, won the Turning Leaf Someone to Watch Award. Zana Briski and Ross Kauffman, directors of the Oscar-nominated documentary Born Into Brothels, won the DirecTV/IFC Truer Than Fiction Award.