SANTA MONICA, CALIFORNIA • The journalism drama Spotlight led the winners at last Saturday's Independent Spirit Awards with four accolades, including the night's top prize for Best Feature, at an event where diversity was front and centre as black and transgender actors won key awards.
Spotlight, the Oscar Best Picture front runner about The Boston Globe's investigation into the Roman Catholic Church's cover-up of child sex abuse by priests, also won Spirit Awards for Best Director, Screenplay and Editing.
The Spirit Awards honour independent films made within a US$20-million (S$28-million) budget and often recognise films that go on to win Oscars the next day, such as the dark comedy Birdman last year.
"It's rare to make a film that impacts the world as significantly as this one has," Spotlight producer Michael Sugar said on stage.
"By honouring it, you're making more people aware of it, and as more people are aware of it, more can be spared from a life of abuse."
The Netflix film Beasts Of No Nation, about child soldiers in West Africa and starring a cast of black actors, took two awards, Best Male Lead for teen newcomer Abraham Attah and Best Supporting Male for Idris Elba.
Attah, who beat contenders including Jason Segel and Ben Mendelsohn, thanked everyone involved in the production of the film, from Elba and director Cary Fukunaga to the costume designers.
Tangerine star Mya Taylor was named Best Supporting Female, becoming the first transgender artist to win a Spirit Award.
"There is transgender talent, there's very beautiful transgender talent," she told the audience. "You better get out there and put them in your next movie."
The annual Spirit Awards, held over lunch in a tent on Southern California's Santa Monica beach the day before the Oscars, offer a laidback setting for nominees and guests to let their hair down.
Room star Brie Larson won the Best Female Lead Spirit Award and is the front runner to win the Best Actress Oscar.
The spotlight on diversity at the Spirit Awards comes amid a furore in Hollywood over the 20 all-white acting nominees for this year's Oscars, fuelling the #OscarsSo White debate.
Spirit Award host Kumail Nanjiani, who is Pakistani-American, introduced himself and his co-host, openly gay comedian Kate McKinnon, as "a gay woman and a Pakistani man. Or as Hollywood thinks of us, a straight woman and her IT guy".
The lesbian romance Carol led the nominees last Saturday with six nods, but came away with only the best cinematography award.