LOS ANGELES • Lesbian romance Carol led the field for Film Independent's Spirit Awards with six nominations on Tuesday while the Catholic Church sex abuse tale Spotlight and the Netflix war thriller Beasts Of No Nation picked up five each in the opening of the Hollywood awards season.
Carol, set in 1952, is about a young New York woman who falls in love with an older married woman.
It will contend for Best Feature, the top Spirit prize, alongside Spotlight, stop-motion film Anomalisa, Beasts Of No Nation and Tangerine, a comedy-drama on transgender sex workers.
The makers of all five films are nominated for Best Director, along with David Robert Mitchell for the hit horror film It Follows.
The Spirit Awards honour the best achievements in independent movies made for up to US$20 million (S$28 million).
The prize often recognises films that become Oscar frontrunners. Black comedy Birdman and drama 12 Years A Slave both won a Spirit in the past two years and went on to win the Best Picture Oscar.
Carol actresses Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara will contend for Best Female Lead, a rare occurrence for the stars of the same film. They will be up against Brie Larson for Room, Bel Powley for The Diary Of A Teenage Girl and transgender actress Kitana Kiki Rodriguez for Tangerine.
Spotlight has an all-star cast including Michael Keaton and Mark Ruffalo and recounts how Boston Globe journalists broke the tale of widespread sex abuse within the Catholic Church. It will receive the Robert Altman Award, an annual accolade given to a film's ensemble cast, casting director and director.
It was also nominated for Best Screenplay and Editing.
Beasts Of No Nation, Netflix's first original film production, also landed nominations for Best Cinematography, Male Lead for newcomer Abraham Attah and Supporting Male for Idris Elba.
Attah will compete against Christopher Abbott (in the film James White), Ben Mendelsohn (Mississippi Grind), Jason Segel (The End Of The Tour) and Koudous Seihon (Mediterranea).
The Spirit Awards will be held in California's Santa Monica on Feb 27, the day before the Oscars ceremony.