Indie Spirit Awards hit milestone 25th year

Fri Nov 27, 2009 12:23pm EST
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By Bob Tourtellotte

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - When organizers for the independent film world's Spirit Awards unveil nominees for its honors this coming Tuesday, they will be doing more than just singling out top movies in the low-budget, art house arena.

The members of Film Independent, the group that sponsors the Spirits, will be putting its first touches on celebrating 25 years of honoring movies that once were dismissed by Hollywood studios but now are the stuff of Oscar legend.

In fact, the rise of the Spirits closely tracks the growth of the independent movie movement throughout the 1990s and 2000s as major studios began focusing on big-budget flicks and franchises such as the "Harry Potter" series, leaving serious drama -- the stuff of Oscar winners -- to low-budget filmmakers working outside the major studios.

"The awards embody that movement. They say, 'this is important in our culture,' said Dawn Hudson, who heads up Los Angeles-based Film Independent, or FIND.

Hudson calls the "artists" who work in the indie arena, "the creative heart and soul of the movie industry."

In recent years, indie filmmakers have given audiences work such as best picture Oscar nominee "Little Miss Sunshine"; handed actors like Mickey Rourke in "The Wrestler" a second chance at stardom and even put a movie like this year's "The Hurt Locker" on the map for Hollywood to watch.

After playing at festivals in 2008 "Hurt Locker," about an army bomb squad unit that defuses bombs, was nominated for two Spirits -- best male lead for Jeremy Renner and best supporting actor for Anthony Mackie -- among its accolades in a year during which war films mostly flopped at box offices.

With critical acclaim supporting it, distributors held the movie to release in 2009, when audiences seemed to be more receptive to war dramas, and "Hurt Locker" earned roughly $16 million at box offices -- a healthy sum for an indie movie.   Continued...