Film Independent Spirit Awards

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$75,000 in grants given by Premier Sponsor Genesis Motor North America

LOS ANGELES (March 16, 2021) – Film Independent has named filmmaker Shaka King (Judas and the Black Messiah) as its Honorary Chair at the 2021 Film Independent Spirit Awards. In his capacity as Honorary Chair, King helped announce, in an online video posted this morning, the winners of three unrestricted $25,000 Spirit Awards cash grants—$75,000 total, provided by Spirit Awards Premier Sponsor Genesis Motor North America—given to emerging filmmakers: the Someone To Watch Award, the Producers Award and the Truer Than Fiction Award.

Ekwa Msangi, director of Farewell Amor, received the Someone to Watch Award. The award recognizes talented filmmakers of singular vision who have not yet received appropriate recognition. The award is in its 27th year and includes a $25,000 unrestricted grant. Finalists for the award were David Midell, director of The Killing of Kenneth Chamberlain, and Annie Silverstein, director of Bull.

Gerry Kim received the Producers Award. The award honors emerging producers who, despite highly limited resources, demonstrate the creativity, tenacity and vision required to produce quality, independent films. The annual award, in its 24th year, includes a $25,000 unrestricted grant. Finalists for the award were Kara Durrett and Lucas Joaquin.

Elegance Bratton, director of Pier Kids, received the Truer Than Fiction Award. The award is presented to an emerging director of non-fiction features who has not yet received significant recognition. The award is in its 26th year and includes a $25,000 unrestricted grant. Finalists for the award were Cecilia Aldarondo, director of Landfall, and Elizabeth Lo, director of Stray.

“Shaka King electrified audiences this year with his tour de force film Judas and the Black Messiah. As a director who won the Someone to Watch Award only a few years ago, we can’t think of a better person to serve as our Honorary Chair at this year’s Spirit Awards,” said Film Independent President Josh Welsh. “With the Spirit Award grants, we celebrate the most talented emerging writers, producers and directors, working today in fiction as well as non-fiction, and are deeply grateful to Genesis for their generous support.”

All three grants were supported by Genesis Motor North America. “Genesis is pleased to support these independent voices at the Spirit Awards,” said Mark Del Rosso, President & CEO of Genesis Motor North America. “We want to encourage these independent voices to use their stories and films to inspire others all over the world.” As Premier Sponsor, Genesis Motor North America is also supporting the ongoing Film Independent Directors Close-Up series.

Shaka King previously won the Someone To Watch Award in 2014 for the film Newlyweeds and announced the 2021 recipients alongside two other prior Spirit Award grant winners: Mel Eslyn (2016 Producers Award) and Nanfu Wang (2017 Truer Than Fiction Award.)

Past Honorary Chairs include Lena Waithe, Ava DuVernay, Jessica Chastain, Ang Lee, David Oyelowo, Jodie Foster, Javier Bardem, Kerry Washington, Tom Cruise, Samuel L. Jackson, Nicole Kidman and Julianne Moore, among others. Previous Spirit Award Grant Award winners include Kyle Patrick Alvarez, Effie T. Brown, Elizabeth Chai Vaserhelyi, Karin Chien, Justin Chon, Larry Fessenden, Debra Granik, Bing Liu, Lynn Shelton, Chloe Zhaó and Kelly Reichardt.

Winners for the remaining categories will be revealed at the 2021 Film Independent Spirit Awards, hosted by SNL’s Melissa Villaseñor and airing exclisively on IFC and AMC+ on Thursday, April 22. The Spirit Awards are the primary fundraiser for Film Independent’s year-round programs, which cultivate the careers of emerging filmmakers and promote diversity in the industry. Click here to see the full list of this year’s nominees.

The Film Independent Spirit Awards are sponsored by Premier Genesis Motor North America and IFC. Bulleit Frontier Whiskey is the Official Spirit. FIJI Water is the Official Water. Getty Images is the Official Photographer. We are also honored to be partnering with the Association of National Advertisers’ (ANA) SeeHer, the leading global movement for gender equality in media, advertising, marketing and entertainment, and AMC Networks to further celebrate and act as a catalyst for accurate and meaningful representation in storytelling.

The Spirit Awards are the primary fundraiser for Film Independent’s year-round programs, which cultivate the careers of emerging filmmakers and promote diversity and inclusion in the film industry. To learn more about attending the Spirit Awards and supporting Film Independent’s mission and programs, contact Jennifer Murby at

To learn about sponsorship opportunities, please contact Stephanie Terifay at

To learn more about the Spirit Awards eligibility rules and regulations please visit

The winners of the Film Independent Spirit Awards are voted upon by Film Independent Members. Membership is open to the public. For more information or to become a Member, visit


Film Independent is the nonprofit arts organization that champions creative independence in visual storytelling and supports a community of artists who embody diversity, innovation and uniqueness of vision. Film Independent helps filmmakers make their movies, builds an audience for their projects and works to diversify the film industry. Film Independent’s Board of Directors, filmmakers, staff and constituents form an inclusive community of individuals across ability, age, ethnicity, gender, race and sexual orientation. Anyone passionate about film can become a Member, whether you are a filmmaker, industry professional or a film lover.

In addition to producing the Spirit Awards, Film Independent produces Film Independent Presents, a year-round screening series for its members that offers unique cinematic experiences for the worldwide creative community as well as film lovers in the general public. Through annual screenings and events, Film Independent provides access to a network of like-minded artists who are driving creativity in the film industry.

Film Independent’s Artist Development program offers free labs for selected writers, directors, producers and documentary filmmakers and presents year-round networking opportunities, like Project Involve, Film Independent’s signature program dedicated to fostering the careers of talented filmmakers from communities traditionally underrepresented in the film industry. A year-round slate of Education and International programs cultivate the careers of filmmakers and promote diversity, inclusion and cultural exchange across the film industry.


IFC is the home of offbeat, unexpected comedies. Acclaimed series Documentary Now!, Sherman’s Showcase, Baroness von Sketch Show and Year of the Rabbit air alongside fan-favorite movies and comedic cult TV shows. IFC is owned and operated by AMC Networks Inc., and available across multiple platforms. IFC is Always On, Slightly Off.


AMC+ is the company’s new premium streaming bundle featuring an extensive lineup of popular and critically acclaimed original programming from across AMC Networks’ entertainment networks and a number of the company’s targeted streaming services, including Shudder, Sundance Now and IFC Films Unlimited, which feature content such as Riviera, Creepshow, A Discovery of Witches and Boyhood. Currently available to Amazon Prime Video Channels, Apple TV channels, Roku Channels, Comcast Xfinity, DirecTV, DISH and Sling TV.


Genesis Motor North America is headquartered in Fountain Valley, California. Genesis is a global automotive brand that delivers the highest standards of performance, design,

and innovation. Genesis offers a range of models including the G70 sport sedan, G80 executive sedan, the flagship G90 sedan, and the GV80 sport utility vehicle.

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