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25th Annual IFP Gotham Independent Film Award Winners Announced

by Erik Luers on December 1, 2015

New York, NY (Monday, November 30, 2015) – The Independent Filmmaker Project (IFP) tonight announced the winners of the 25h Annual Gotham Independent Film Awards at its awards ceremony held at Cipriani Wall Street in New York City.


Winning the Best Feature, Best Screenplay, and a Special Jury Award for Ensemble Performance was Spotlight, director Tom McCarthy’s dramatic retelling of the Boston Globe’s investigative unit’s coverage in 2002 of the Archdiocese of Boston sex abuse scandal. McCarthy also shared Spotlight’s Best Screenplay win with co-writer Josh Singer.


The award for Best Documentary went to The Look of Silence, Joshua Oppenheimer’s film that follows an optician as he confronts the men who killed the brother he never knew during the 1965-66 Indonesian genocide. The harrowing and moving documentary serves as a companion piece to Oppenheimer’s The Act of Killing, for which he previously won the 2013 Gotham Award for Best Documentary.


Winning the award for Best Actor was Paul Dano for his transformative, emotional turn as the young Brian Wilson in Love & Mercy. Bel Powley was voted Best Actress for her emotionally detailed and varied performance in The Diary of a Teenage Girl, in which she plays a teen artist who starts an affair with her mother’s boyfriend.


The Gotham Independent Film Audience Award, voted by IFP members, went to Tangerine, director Sean Baker’s technically audacious, micro-budget comedy that follows two transgender sex workers on a wayward Christmas Eve revenge mission through the streets of L.A. Also awarded for Tangerine, Mya Taylor was voted the Breakthrough Actor award for her portrayal of Alexandra.


Jonas Carpignano won the Bingham Ray Breakthrough Director award, given to the director of a first feature, for Mediterranea, his timely and visually stunning debut chronicling two friends’ harrowing journey to cross the Mediterranean Sea to immigrate to Italy.


For the first time, the Gotham Awards presented two Breakthrough Series awards for achievement in episodic content in television and digital media. The Breakthrough Series– Long Form award winner was Mr. Robot, created by Sam Esmail. The USA Network series follows Elliot, a young programmer who works as a cyber-security engineer by day and a vigilante hacker by night.


The Breakthrough Series– Short Form award went to Shugs & Fats, a comedic web series that follows two Hijabis striving to find themselves in New York by adopting the latest Western trends of self-expression and personal growth. Shugs & Fats was created by Nadia P. Manzoor and Radhika Vaz, who also star as the title characters.


Also presented by IFP for the fifth year at the ceremony was the euphoria Calvin Klein Spotlight on Women Filmmakers ‘Live the Dream’ grant, a $25,000 cash award for an alumna of IFP’s Independent Filmmaker & Screen Forward Labs. This grant aims to further the careers of emerging women directors by supporting the completion, distribution and audience engagement strategies of their first feature film or episodic series. The winner of the 2015 grant was Chanelle Aponte Pearson, director of 195 Lewis, a web series that follows a diverse group of young women as they navigate the realities of being black and queer in New York City.


As previously announced, in addition to the competitive awards presented, a Special Jury Award was presented by Emmy Rossum to eight actors from the cast of Spotlight for their ensemble work in the film, “in which every performance, in every role, of every size, is beautifully realized.” Career Tributes were also given during the ceremony to actors Helen Mirren (presented by Robert De Niro) and Robert Redford (presented by Dan Rather), director Todd Haynes (presented by Julianne Moore) and producer Steve Golin (presented by Alejandro G. Iñarritu).


A Gotham Appreciation Award, a special recognition to honor an individual behind the scenes who has been an integral part of making the independent film scene what it is today, was given to Ellen Cotter, who has overseen every aspect of the Angelika Film Centers’ businesses for the past 15 years. The award, sponsored by Rentrak, was presented by Amy Ryan.


The Gotham Award ceremony was streamed live to a global audience at


The 25th Annual Gotham Independent Film Award recipients are:


For Best Feature, presented by John Turturro



Directed by Tom McCarthy

Produced by Michael Sugar, Steve Golin, Nicole Rocklin, and Blye Pagan Faust

Released by Open Road Films


The Best Feature jury included Paul Haggis, Rebecca Hall, Jon Kilik, Lee Percy, and Jim Taylor.


For Best Documentary, presented by Cynthia Nixon


The Look of Silence

Directed by Joshua Oppenheimer

Produced by Signe Byrge Sørensen

Released by Drafthouse Films


The Best Documentary Jury included Zachary Heinzerling, Jennie Livingston, Peter Nicks, Dawn Porter, and Tracy Droz Tragos.


For the Gotham Independent Film Audience Award, presented by Rosie Perez



Directed by Sean Baker

Produced by Darren Dean, Shih-Ching Tsou, Marcus Cox & Karrie Cox

Released by Magnolia Pictures


The Audience Award was voted for on-line by IFP members.



For Best Actor, presented by Glenn Close


Paul Dano in Love & Mercy

Released by Roadside Attractions, Lionsgate, and River Road Entertainment


The Best Actor Jury included Grant Heslov, Sabine Hoffman, Melanie Lynskey, Paul Mezey, and Shonda Rhimes.


For Best Actress, presented by Harvey Keitel

(presenting sponsor euphoria Calvin Klein)


Bel Powley in The Diary of a Teenage Girl

Released by Sony Pictures Classics


The Best Actress Jury included Debra Granik, Lisa Kudrow, Daniel Minahan, Brian Oliver, and John Waters.


For Best Screenplay, presented by Matt Dillon


Tom McCarthy and Josh Singer for Spotlight

Released by Open Road Films


The Best Screenplay Jury included Albert Berger, Andrew Fierberg, Courtney Hunt, David Schwab and Corey Stoll.


For Breakthrough Actor, presented by Sarah Paulson and Michael Shannon


Mya Taylor, Tangerine

Released by Magnolia Pictures


The Breakthrough Actor Jury included Effie Brown, Mike Cahill, Fisher Stevens, Dylan Tichenor, and Tanya Wexler.


For Bingham Ray Breakthrough Director, presented by Julie Taymor


Jonas Carpignano, Mediterranea

Released by Sundance Selects


The Bingham Ray Breakthrough Director Jury included Paul Bettany, Ed Lachman, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, and Julie Taymor.



For Breakthrough Series – Long Form, presented by Mariska Hargitay


Mr. Robot

Sam Esmail, Creator

USA Networks


The Breakthrough Series – Long Form Jury included Tom Gilroy, Scott Hornbacher, Lars Knudsen, Alia Shawkat, and Lili Taylor.


For Breakthrough Series – Short Form, presented by Topher Grace


Shugs & Fats

Nadia P. Manzoor and Radhika Vaz, Creators


The Breakthrough Series-Short Form Jury included Michelle Ashford, Mesh Flinders, Ryan O’Nan, Susan Stover and Derek Waters


Special Jury Award for Ensemble Performance, presented by Emmy Rossum



Mark Ruffalo, Michael Keaton, Rachel McAdams, Liev Schreiber, John Slattery, Brian d’Arcy James, Billy Crudup, and Stanley Tucci

Released by Open Road Films



For the euphoria Calvin Klein Spotlight on Women Filmmakers ‘Live the Dream’ Grant, presented by Lake Bell


Chanelle Aponte Pearson

195 Lewis


The euphoria Calvin Klein Spotlight on Women Filmmakers’ ‘Live the Dream’ grant jury included Hilary Brougher, Melonie Diaz, and Laura Rosenthal.


For images and clips from the ceremony:






The Premier Sponsors of the 25th annual Gotham Independent Film Awards are Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) and The New York Times, and the Platinum Sponsors are euphoria Calvin Klein and Greater Fort Lauderdale/Broward Office of Film, Music and Entertainment. The Official Water Sponsor is FIJI Water, the Official Liquor Partner is Maestro Dobel Tequila by Proximo Spirits, and the Official Wine Partner is Line 39 Wines by O’Neill Vintners. Additionally, the awards were promoted nationally in an eight-page special advertising section in The New York Times in November 2015.


About IFP

The Independent Filmmaker Project (IFP) champions the future of storytelling by connecting artists with essential resources at all stages of development and distribution. The organization fosters a vibrant and sustainable independent storytelling community through its year-round programs, which include Independent Film Week, Filmmaker Magazine, the Gotham Independent Film Awards and the Made in NY Media Center by IFP, a new incubator space developed with the Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment. IFP represents a growing network of 10,000 storytellers around the world, and plays a key role in developing 350 new feature and documentary works each year. During its 35-year history, IFP has supported over 8,000 projects and offered resources to more than 20,000 filmmakers, including Debra Granik, Miranda July, Michael Moore, Dee Rees, and Benh Zeitlin. More info at


About the Gotham Independent Film Awards by IFP

The Gotham Independent Film Awards by IFP, selected by distinguished juries and presented in New York City, the home of independent film, are the first honors of the film awards season. This public showcase honors the filmmaking community, expands the audience for independent films, and supports the work that IFP does behind the scenes throughout the year to bring such films to fruition.

For information on attending:


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