| LOS ANGELES, March 1
LOS ANGELES, March 1 Gritty slavery drama "12
Years a Slave" leads the race for the Independent Spirit Awards
on Saturday, as the film community gathers to honor
smaller-budget and art house movies that are often strong
contenders at the Academy Awards the next day.
Directed by Steve McQueen, "12 Years a Slave" earned seven
Spirit Awards nominations including best feature, director, best
actor for Chiwetel Ejiofor and best supporting nods for Michael
Fassbender and Lupita Nyong'o.
The film has sparked a conversation on racial equality
during awards season with its portrayal of the harsh, brutal
reality of America's slavery history. It has become the
frontrunner for Sunday's Oscars, where it will vie for the top
races including best picture, actor and director.
The Spirit Awards, held in a giant tent on California's
Santa Monica beach and hosted this year by Patton Oswalt, is a
more casual affair compared to the glamour and glitz of the
Notable Spirit Awards winners in previous years that have
gone on to win the Oscar the following day include Natalie
Portman winning best actress for "Black Swan" in 2011, and
Jennifer Lawrence for "Silver Linings Playbook" last year.
This year's best actress race will feature Cate Blanchett
for "Blue Jasmine," Julie Delpy for "Before Midnight," Brie
Larson for "Short Term 12," Shailene Woodley from "The
Spectacular Now" and Gaby Hoffman for "Crystal Fairy."
Blanchett is also nominated for the Oscar in the same
category and is a frontrunner to win on Sunday.
Delpy, who is also nominated for the Spirit Award best
screenplay category for "Before Midnight" along with co-writers
Ethan Hawke and Richard Linklater, said the recognition in
writing was particularly meaningful for her.
"People were not taking me seriously until eventually they
did, but it took me 15 years," the actress said at a Women in
Film event on Friday. "I'm very excited. This is a true work of
love for the three of us, and it's great, fantastic, a lot of
Delpy, Hawke and Linklater are also nominated in the best
adapted screenplay Oscar category.
The Spirit Awards, sponsored by the Los Angeles-based
non-profit group Film Independent, are Hollywood's top honors
for independent film and art house projects. The ceremony is
televised later on Saturday at 10 p.m. EDT (0300 GMT) on cable
(Reporting by Piya Sinha-Roy; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)