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By Michael Dequina | March 25, 2001

The 16th annual Independent Spirit Awards found the Independent Feature Project/West’s annual celebration of American independent film expanding its traditional geographic boundaries to include the Taiwan/U.S. co-production “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon,” the March 24 event’s big winner. Ang Lee’s language-barrier-breaking martial arts epic won all three awards for which it had been nominated: Best Feature, Best Director for Lee, and Best Supporting Female for Zhang Ziyi.
Except for Zhang, all winners in the top six categories are also nominated for Academy Awards. Best Male Lead went to Javier Bardem for his work as gay Cuban writer Reinaldo Arenas in the biopic “Before Night Falls,” directed by Julian Schnabel. Ellen Burstyn, who has earned many critics association kudos this awards season for her performance as a diet pill addict in Darren Aronofsky’s bleak “Requiem for a Dream,” added the Best Female Lead trophy to her collection. The award for Best Supporting Male was given to Willem Dafoe’s acclaimed performance as ultimate method actor Max Schreck in E. Elias Merhige’s speculative “Shadow of the Vampire.” Kenneth Lonergan’s much-lauded script for his sibling drama “You Can Count on Me” was named Best Screenplay; the film itself was also named Best First Feature.
“Requiem” collected a second award, for Matthew Libatique’s cinematography. “Requiem”’s distributor, Artisan Entertainment, added another Spirit Award to its credit with the Best Feature Under $500,000 winner, the strange Miguel Arteta-directed, Mike White-scripted comedy of obsessive friendship, “Chuck & Buck.” Other buzzed-about selections in last year’s Sundance Film Festival were also honored: Karyn Kusama’s jury prize-winning female boxing drama “Girlfight,” was recognized when lead Michelle Rodriguez won the award for Best Debut Performance; and Gina Prince-Bythewood won Best First Screenplay for her sports-themed romance “Love & Basketball.”
Spirit Award voters clearly landed on the “love it” side for Lars von Trier’s musical melodrama “Dancer in the Dark,” giving the controversial Cannes prizewinner the Best Foreign Film award. The somewhat similarly titled “Dark Days,” Marc Singer’s non-fiction account of abandoned subway tunnel dwellers, was named Best Documentary.
Unrestricted cash grants of $20,000 as well as trophies were given to the winners of three special awards designed to recognize and nurture up-and-coming talent. The Motorola Producers Award was given to Paul S. Mezey, producer of “The Ballad of Ramblin’ Jack” and “Spring Forward.” This year’s Movado Someone to Watch Award, given to a fiction feature director, was won by Marc Forster, director of “Everything Put Together.” The sibling team of David and Laurie Gwen Shapiro were the documentary filmmakers honored with the DirecTV/IFC Truer Than Fiction Award.
LIST OF WINNERS ^ Best Feature: “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” ^ Best Director: Ang Lee, “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” ^ Best Male Lead: Javier Bardem, “Before Night Falls” ^ Best Female Lead: Ellen Burstyn, “Requiem for a Dream”^ Best Supporting Male: Willem Dafoe, “Shadow of the Vampire” ^ Best Supporting Female: Zhang Ziyi, “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” ^ Best Screenplay: “You Can Count on Me” – Kenneth Lonergan ^ Best First Feature: “You Can Count on Me,” directed by Kenneth Lonergan ^ Best First Screenplay: “Love & Basketball” – Gina Prince-Bythewood ^ Best Feature under $500,000: “Chuck & Buck,” directed by Miguel Arteta ^ Best Debut Performance: Michelle Rodriguez, “Girlfight” ^ Best Cinematography: “Requiem for a Dream” – Matthew Libatique ^ Best Foreign Film: “Dancer in the Dark,” directed by Lars von Trier ^ Best Documentary: “Dark Days,” directed by Marc Singer ^ Motorola Producers Award: Paul S. Mezey, “The Ballad of Ramblin’ Jack” and “Spring Forward” ^ Movado Someone to Watch Award: Marc Forster, “Everything Put Together” ^ DirecTV/IFC Truer Than Fiction Award: David and Laurie Gwen Shapiro
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