Film Independent presented the 2009 Spirit Awards on the beach in Santa Monica on Saturday, February 21. A celebration honoring films made by filmmakers who embody independence and who dare to challenge the status quo, the Spirit Awardswhich began as a small grassroots programhas grown into one of the most anticipated events of the film year.

BEST PICTURE: The Wrestler, Producers: Darren Aronofsky and Scott Franklin

BEST DIRECTOR:Tom McCarthy, Director, The Visitor

BEST SCREENPLAY:Vicky Cristina Barcelona, Written by Woody Allen

BEST FIRST FEATURE:Synecdoche, New York, Director: Charlie Kaufman, Producers: Anthony Bregman, Spike Jonze, Charlie Kaufman, and Sidney Kimmel

BEST FIRST SCREENPLAY:Milk, Writer: Dustin Lance Black

JOHN CASSAVETES AWARD (for the Best Feature made for under $500,000):In Search of a Midnight Kiss, Writer/Director: Alex Holdridge, Producers: Seth Caplan and Scoot McNairy

BEST SUPPORTING FEMALE:Penelope Cruz, Vicky Cristina Barcelona


BEST FEMALE LEAD: Melissa Leo, Frozen River

BEST MALE LEAD: Mickey Rourke, The Wrestler

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY:Maryse Alberti, The Wrestler

BEST FOREIGN FILM:The Class, Director: Laurent Cantet

BEST DOCUMENTARY:Man on Wire, James Marsh

Heather Rae, producer of Frozen River and Ibid, received the 13th annual Piaget Producers Award, which honors emerging producers who, despite highly limited resources, demonstrate the creativity, tenacity, and vision required to produce quality, independent films. The winner of the Producers Award receives an unrestricted grant of $25,000 funded by Piaget.

Lynn Shelton, director of My Effortless Brilliance, won the 16th annual Acura Someone To Watch Award, a $25,000 unrestricted grant created to honor a talented filmmaker of singular vision who has not yet received appropriate recognition. The award is funded by Acura.

Margaret Brown, director of The Order of Myths, won the 15th annual LACOSTE Truer Than Fiction Award, presented to an emerging director of non-fiction features who has not yet received significant attention. The award is accompanied by a $25,000 unrestricted grant funded by LACOSTE.

Also given was the 2nd annual Robert Altman Award, given to one film’s director, casting director, and ensemble cast. Charlie Kaufman’s directorial debut Synecdoche, New York received this award, along with casting director Jeanne McCarthy, and ensemble cast members Hope Davis, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Catherine Keener, Samantha Morton, Tom Noonan, Emily Watson, Dianne Wiest, and Michelle Williams.

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