NEW YORK (Reuters) - "The Hurt Locker," a suspense film about a U.S. Army bomb squad unit that defuses bombs in Iraq, won best feature on Monday at the Gotham awards, the top U.S. East Coast independent film awards.
The action-filled drama also took the award for best ensemble performance, and its director, Kathryn Bigelow, was given a special tribute.
The Gotham awards focus on low-budget and art-house films and are an indication of the top independent movies of the year heading into Hollywood's film award season. There are six Gotham award categories.
Best documentary was awarded to "Food, Inc.," directed by Robert Kenner, which highlights the purported dangers and changes in the U.S. food industry dominated by corporations.
The documentary that asserts the industry's harmful effects on public health, the environment, as well as worker and animal rights has also been short-listed for an Academy award for best documentary in 2009.
The breakthrough actor category went to Chilean actress Catalina Saavedra for "The Maid," a movie about a maid's emotional struggle living with an upscale Chilean family.
Robert Siegel won the breakthrough director category for his feature debut, "Big Fan," which was also nominated for best feature, while "You Wont Miss Me" won the award for the best film that has not yet scored a distribution deal.
But "The Hurt Locker" won the most attention, also winning best ensemble performance by its actors, which included Jeremy Renner, Anthony Mackie, Ralph Fiennes and Guy Pearce.
After first playing at film festivals in 2008, it was released this year and has earned more $16 million at box offices worldwide, according to tracking firm Box Office Mojo.
Bigelow, 58, told the audience she hoped the film could remind the public of the ongoing Iraq war and the lives it risks for men and women.
The Gotham awards are held annually by the Independent Feature Project, a nonprofit organization founded in 1979 that supports independent filmmaking. All the nominated films are required to be directed or produced by a U.S.-born or -based filmmaker.
Reporting by Christine Kearney; editing by Paul Simao