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LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - The lesbian romance "Carol" led the field for Film Independent's Spirit Awards with six nominations on Tuesday while the Catholic Church sex abuse tale "Spotlight" and the Netflix war thriller "Beasts of No Nation" picked up five each in the opening of the Hollywood awards season.
"Carol," about a young New York woman who falls in love with an older married woman, will contend for best feature, the top Spirit prize, alongside "Spotlight," the stop-motion film "Anomalisa," "Beasts of No Nation," and "Tangerine," which is about transgender sex workers.
The filmmakers for all five films are nominated for best director, as well as David Robert Mitchell for the hit horror film "It Follows."
The Spirit Awards bestow honors on the best achievements in independent movies made for up to $20 million.
The Spirit Awards often recognize films that become Oscars front-runners. The black comedy "Birdman" and drama "12 Years a Slave" both won a Spirit in the past two years and went on to win the best picture Oscar.
"Carol" actresses Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara will contend for the best female lead, a rare occurrence for the stars of the same film. They will be up against Brie Larson for "Room," Bel Powley for "The Diary of a Teenage Girl" and transgender actress Kitana Kiki Rodriguez for "Tangerine."
"Spotlight" features an all-star cast including Michael Keaton and Mark Ruffalo and recounts how Boston Globe journalists broke the tale of widespread sex abuse within the Catholic Church.
The movie will receive the Robert Altman award, an annual accolade given to a film's ensemble cast, casting director and director. It also was nominated for best screenplay and editing.
"Beasts of No Nation," Netflix Inc's first original film production, also landed nominations for best cinematography, best male lead for newcomer Abraham Attah and best supporting male for Idris Elba.
Attah will compete against Christopher Abbott for "James White," Ben Mendelsohn for "Mississippi Grind," Jason Segel for "The End of the Tour" and Koudous Seihon for "Mediterranea."
The Spirit Awards ceremony will be held in California's Santa Monica beach city on Feb. 27, the day before the Oscars ceremony.
Reporting by Piya Sinha-Roy; Editing by Jill Serjeant and Bill Trott