‘12 Years a Slave’ wins big at Independent Awards

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‘12 Years a Slave’ wins big at Independent Awards

SANTA MONICA, California - Harrowing slavery drama “12 Years a Slave” swept the Independent Spirit Awards on Saturday with five wins, just one day ahead of the Oscar ceremony on Sunday, or this morning Korea time.

“12 Years a Slave” won five of its seven nominations at the awards show for independent movies made on small budgets, including the top award for best feature.

Oscar frontrunners Cate Blanchett, Matthew McConaughey, Jared Leto and Lupita Nyong’o also took home Spirit Award trophies on the eve of the movie industry’s biggest honors.

“12 Years a Slave” producer-director Steve McQueen dedicated the best picture Spirit Award to lead actor Chiwetel Ejiofor and supporting star Michael Fassbender, who were nominated but did not win.

“Michael Fassbender is a genius, he’s brave, he’s feminine, he’s masculine ... that’s what Michael Fassbender is. Chiwetel was the soul and heart of this movie, and gave the most nuanced performance you’ve ever seen,” McQueen said.

McQueen also won best director, and is a strong contender in the Oscars director race on Sunday.

The Spirit Awards, held in a giant tent on California’s Santa Monica beach, is usually a sunny and crisp affair. But this year guests were armed with umbrellas and rain boots as bursts of heavy rain pattered on the tent.

Rising star Nyong’o, who made her film debut with “12 Years a Slave” and is nominated for an Oscar on Sunday, jumped in delight as her name was announced as best supporting actress, giving Ejiofor a hug and being carried to the stage by McQueen.

“Thank you Film Independent. Not a bad way to celebrate my birthday!” the actress, who turned 31 on Saturday, said with a big smile and dedicated her award to her mother.

“12 Years a Slave” goes into =Sunday’s Academy Awards with nine nominations, including best picture, director, actor and supporting nods.

Blanchett, an Oscar favorite for best actress, won the Spirit Award for best female lead for her role as a woman dealing with a financial fall from grace in “Blue Jasmine.” “This film proves that audiences are interested in stories led by women, and that they can in fact make money,” the Australian actress said.

The actress also led a tribute to late actors James Gandolfini, Philip Seymour Hoffman and film critic Roger Ebert.

McConaughey, who has made a transition from big budget comedy fare to independent dramas in the past two years, was named best lead male actor for his role as AIDS sufferer Ron Woodroof, who became a beacon of hope for the AIDS community in the 1980s.

McConaughey’s co-star Leto, another Oscar favorite, won best supporting actor for playing a transgender HIV-positive woman in “Dallas Buyers Club,” and had one of the afternoon’s more amusing thank-you speeches.

“In case this is the last time I get to thank anyone, I wrote down a couple of names because it’s important to me,” the actor said, before reading off a long list that included his nominees, co-stars, family, artists, musicians, actors, “all the women I’ve been with and all the women that think they’ve been with me” and “my future ex-wife Lupita.”

He also thanked Hoffman and shared his award with the family of Gandolfini, who was nominated in the category.

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