The Farewell may have missed out at this year’s Oscars, but Lulu Wang’s movie has won two awards including best film at the Independent Spirit Awards.
Uncut Gems won three, including best male for Adam Sandler, while The Lighthouse won two, with Willem Dafoe taking best supporting male.
American Factory, the first film from Barack and Michelle Obama’s production company Higher Ground, won best documentary.
Wang flew the flag for women in film.
It follows criticism that the nominations for the Oscars and Baftas were not diverse enough.
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“There’s been a lot of conversation this year about how to encourage more women in film,” she said at the award ceremony.
“You don’t have to encourage women – there are lots of women making films and in film school. Shadow programmes are great but women need the the job – just give them the frickin’ job.”
The Farewell, written and directed by Wang, stars Awkwafina and best supporting female winner Zhao Shuzhen. The semi-autobiographical movie tells the story of a Chinese-American woman who returns to China when her grandmother is diagnosed with terminal cancer.
Uncut Gems, which also won best director for Benny and Josh Safdie, tells the story of Howard Ratner, a New York gambling addict and jeweller who attempts to escape debt by acquiring and selling a rare black opal.
Sandler’s speech poked fun at his lack of an Oscar nomination, the day before the Academy Awards take place at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles.
He said: “A few weeks back when I was ‘snubbed’ by the academy, it reminded me when I briefly attended high school and was overlooked for the coveted yearbook superlative category best looking.
“That accolade was given to a jean-jacket wearing, feather-haired douchebag by the name of Skipper Jenkins. But my classmates did honour me with the allegedly less prestigious designation of best personality.
“And tonight, as I look around this room, I realise the Independent Spirit Awards are the best personality awards of Hollywood.”
For films to qualify for the awards, there is a budget cap of $22.5m.
Renee Zellweger, who looks certain to win an Oscar on Sunday, continued her winning streak with the prize for best female for Judy, for her portrayal of Judy Garland.
She said independent films “challenge our perspectives and enlighten us”.
Marriage Story, about the disintegration of a relationship starring Scarlett Johansson and Adam Driver, won best screenplay for Noah Baumbach plus the Robert Altman award.
American Factory, directed by Julia Reichert and Steven Bognar, explores what happens when a Chinese billionaire opens a factory in an abandoned General Motors plant in Ohio, hiring 2,000 American workers.
Reichert, who is having treatment for cancer, spoke about income inequality, and said their film questioned this.
Parasite, Bong Joon-Ho’s South Korean social comedy thriller which won last year’s Palme D’Or at Cannes and is up for six Oscars, won best international film.
It depicts the symbiotic relationship between a very wealthy and an impoverished family, whose lives become intertwined.
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Teen comedy Booksmart, directed by Olivia Wilde, won best first feature and tells the story of two graduating high school girls (Beanie Feldstein and Kaitlyn Dever) who finally decide to party and break some rules before they leave.
Independent Spirit Awards main winners
Best feature – The Farewell
Best female lead – Renee Zellweger, Judy
Best male lead – Adam Sandler, Uncut Gems
Best supporting female – Zhao Shuzhen, The Farewell
Best supporting male – Willem Dafoe, The Lighthouse
Best director – Benny and Josh Safdie, Uncut Gems
Best first feature – Booksmart
Best screenplay – Noah Baumbach, Marriage Story
Best first screenplay – Fredrica Bailey and Stefon Bristol, See You Yesterday
Robert Altman Award – Marriage Story
Best documentary – American Factory
Best international film – Parasite