Stars celebrate independent films at Spirit awards as Oscar battle heats up

Michael Keaton, Oprah Winfrey and Emma Stone are among the stars on the red carpet for the 30th Independent Spirit Awards.

SANTA MONICA, CALIFORNIA, UNITED STATES (FEBRUARY 21, 2015) (REUTERS) – The day before the glitzy Oscars ceremony, stars walked the red carpet at the Independent Spirit Awards on Saturday (February 21), on California’s Santa Monica beach to celebrate the best independent movies made on small budgets.

Oprah Winfrey, producer and cast member of the movie “Selma”, said the film’s Oscar nod for best picture was a validation. The film’s star David Oyelowo and the director Ava DuVernay both failed to garner Oscar nominations in the movie about African-American civil rights activist Martin Luther King Jr.

“It means that we were validated and there were enough people who saw and heard and received the message that we wanted to offer through “Selma,” that’s what it means,” she said.

The film left the Spirit Awards empty handed.

Oyelowo, who played King, said the film wouldn’t have been made in the way it was were it not independent.

“I don’t think this film would have got made with Ava directing and me in the lead if we had done it within the studio system. And the great thing is, we’ve proved it could be done and a studio embraced it, so it proves that independent film is incredibly effective at getting meaningful stories out there,” he said.

JK Simmons, who won best supporting male for his role in jazz drama “Whiplash,” said he was a great supporter of independent films.

“Well, we’re here celebrating indie films today and the independent spirit is alive and well and getting more and more recognition. That’s a beautiful thing,” he said.

Dark showbiz satire “Birdman” was one of the day’s big winners. The movie is nominated for nine Oscars on Sunday (February 22) and won three Spirit Awards, including the top prize of best feature.

Michael Keaton, who took the best actor award, said it was important to support independent film.

“I like independent movies, we go see them and I like to encourage people who are trying, you know. It’s hard to get a movie made. I’d like to support it,” he said.

Alejandro Iñárritu, director of “Birdman,” said independent filmmakers were a “species in extinction”.

“I feel very proud, very proud because in a way all these films that are nominated independent in a way that they are free and liberated from those normal pressures of these safe and successful franchises or ideas that have been created or things that have to have a profit, sacrificing what they really have to say. So I’m proud to belong to this species in extinction,” he said.

Japanese actress Rinko Kikuchi, who was nominated for “Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter”, but lost to Julianne Moore, said her approach to her films was the same whether they were independent or from a major studio.

“Whether it’s big budget or small, independent film, for me it’s the same thing because I just focus on the movie and the role. So for me, it’s the same thing,” she said.

All four acting categories were won by Oscar-nominated frontrunners, including Michael Keaton for best actor for “Birdman.” In his acceptance speech, he called the film “bold cinema,” and a “game-changer.”

Julianne Moore was named best actress for her portrayal of a woman suffering from Alzheimer’s disease in “Still Alice.”

The 30th annual Spirit Awards, hosted by Film Independent, honors the best achievements across movies made under $20 million and are often an indicator of Academy Award winners, with drama “12 Years a Slave” taking top honors at both the Spirit Awards and Oscars last year.