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Independent Spirit Awards 2021: Stepping in the right direction ahead of the Oscars

  • Published at 08:17 pm April 23rd, 2021
Independent Spirit Awards
'Nomadland' took home the biggest awards of the 39th Independent Spirit Awards Collected

This year’s nominees were led by the acclaimed 'Never Rarely Sometimes Always,' which escaped the Academy’s notice entirely, along with the sublime 'First Cow' and 'The Assistant'

With the Oscars knocking at the door, one of the last major awards of the season declared the winners on Friday (Thursday in Los Angeles). Independent Spirit Awards has always been way more “woke” than the Oscars with a higher number of female and foreign nominees. It also doesn’t mysteriously snub a few excellent films like the Academy does each year. The ones that are left out are mostly because they don’t fall under the “indie films” category. Oscars could seriously learn a thing or two from them, especially this year when they’ve introduced new categories for TV shows and nominated more women in the Best Director category than men, and it’s not even their first time.

Also read: Oscar predictions 2021: ‘Nomadland’ will win (almost) everything

It has been an extraordinary experience to get to vote for the 36th annual Independent Spirit Awards. As an alumna of one of Film Independent’s workshops last year, we were given this exciting privilege. The films were better curated than some of the biggest film festivals (especially for the non-European audience) and the blend of art and popular films shooed away any boredom that might be lurking in some corner in these pandemic days. 

This year’s nominees were led by the acclaimed “Never Rarely Sometimes Always,” which escaped the Academy’s notice entirely, along with the sublime “First Cow” and “The Assistant.” The favourites they had in common were “Minari,” “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” and “Nomadland.”

“Nomadland” bagged the biggest prizes (Best Feature and Best Director) of the night. The film is expected to do the same at the Oscars on Sunday, although the Spirit Awards is not a major predictor here. Except for Yuh-jung Youn (“Minari”), all the acting awards went to different performers than the Oscar frontrunners. Deservedly, Carey Mulligan won the Best Actress accolade for her portrayal of a traumatized woman with a vengeance in “Promising Young Woman” and British-Pakistani actor Riz Ahmed won Best Actor for playing the role of a drummer dealing with deafness in “The Sound of Metal.”

A list of winners in some of the major categories is given below:

Best Feature:

“First Cow”

“Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom”


“Never Rarely Sometimes Always”



Best Director:

Lee Isaac Chung, “Minari”

Emerald Fennell, “Promising Young Woman”

Eliza Hittman,” Never Rarely Sometimes Always”

Kelly Reichardt, “First Cow”

Chloe Zhao, “Nomadland”


Best First Feature:

“I Carry You With Me”

“The 40 Year Old Version”

“Sound of Metal”

“Miss Juneteenth”

“Nine Days”


Best Female Lead

Nicole Beharie, “Miss Juneteenth”

Viola Davis, “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom”

Sidney Flanigan, “Never Rarely Sometimes Always”

Julia Garner, “The Assistant”

Frances McDormand, “Nomadland”

Carey Mulligan, “Promising Young Woman”


Best Male Lead:

Riz Ahmed, “The Sound of Metal”

Chadwick Boseman, “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom”

Rob Morgan, “Bull”

Steven Yeun, “Minari”

Adarsh Gourav, “The White Tiger”


Best Supporting Female:

Alexis Chikaeze, “Miss Juneteenth”

Yeri Han, “Minari”

Valerie Mahaffey, “French Exit”

Talia Ryder, “Never Rarely Sometimes Always”

Yuh-jung Youn, “Minari”


Best Supporting Male:

Colman Domingo, “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom”

Orion Lee, “First Cow”

Paul Raci, “Sound of Metal” 

Glynn Turmann, “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom”

Benedict Wong, “Nine Days”


Best Screenplay:

“Bad Education”


“The Half of It”

“Never Rarely Sometimes Always”

“Promising Young Woman” 


Best International Film:


“The Disciple”

“Night of the Kings”

“Preparations to be Together for an Unknown Period of Time”

“Quo Vadis, Aida?” 


Best Cinematography:

Jay Keitel, “She Dies Tomorrow”

Shabier Kirchner, “Bull”

Michael Latham, “The Assistant”

Hélène Louvart, “Never Rarely Sometimes Always”

Joshua James Richards, “Nomadland”