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Lost in Translation favourite at Indie awards

Lost in Translation won top prizes at the Independent Spirit Awards, the art world's equivalent of the Oscars.

india Updated: Feb 29, 2004 21:32 IST

Director Sofia Coppola, who emerged from her famous father's shadow last year with her movie "Lost in Translation," was the toast of the film world on Saturday, as the comedy won top prizes at the Independent Spirit Awards, the arthouse world's equivalent of the Oscars.

"Lost in Translation," Coppola's second film, won all four categories in which it was nominated: best feature, director, screenplay and male lead (Bill Murray). Both Coppola and Murray will compete for Academy Awards on Sunday, as will the other three main acting winners, South African native Charlize Theron for "Monster," Benin-born Djimon Hounsou for "In America" and Iran's Shohreh Aghdashloo for "House of Sand and Fog."

The Spirit Awards honor films based on such criteria as original, provocative subject matter, budget and the degree of independent financing. The winners were announced during a leisurely luncheon underneath a marquee on Santa Monica Beach, a sharp contrast to the chaotic scene at the Oscars.

While both events historically share plenty of nominees, there is little crossover among the winners. Last year, only Michael Moore won both a Spirit Award and an Oscar, for his documentary "Bowling for Columbine." The winner of this year's Spirit for documentary, "The Fog of War" director Errol Morris, will also vie for an Oscar on Sunday.

Irish writer/director Jim Sheridan's "In America," which led the Spirit nominees with nods in six categories, ended up with two prizes, supporting actor for Hounsou's turn as a dying artist, and cinematography for Declan Quinn.

Double winners included writer/director Patty Jenkins' "Monster," which nabbed prizes for Theron's lead role as a serial killer and first feature; and writer/director Thomas McCarthy's "The Station Agent" for first screenplay and feature made for under $500,000.

Coppola, the 32-year-old daughter of "The Godfather" director Francis Ford Coppola, has already won numerous prizes for "Lost in Translation," including a Golden Globe and a Writers Guild of America Award. She will compete for three Oscars: director, the first American woman nominated in that category; best picture, with producer Ross Katz; and original screenplay.

The film, shot guerrilla-style without studio support, revolves around two mismatched Americans at loose ends in Tokyo, a disenchanted actor played by Murray and a confused young wife played by Scarlett Johansson.

Coppola managed to get her script to the famously elusive Murray, who agreed to star in it although he never signed a contract. To Coppola's relief, he turned up in Tokyo days before the fast-paced 27-day shoot began. Since opening in September, the film has earned more than $43 million at the North American box office.

Other Spirit winners included 16-year-old Nikki Reed for best debut performance in the teen drama "Thirteen," a drama she co-wrote with the film's director, Catherine Hardwicke.

The New Zealand mystical drama "Whale Rider" was honored for best foreign film. Foreign films are eligible only for this category. The film's 13-year-old star, Keisha Castle-Hughes, was a surprise Oscar nominee for lead actress.

"'Whale Rider' is a template for an independent film, and so it's wonderful that the independent world is acknowledging it," writer/director Niki Caro told Reuters. "But it's gone so much wider than that now. And it's very satisfying to me that in a single weekend we can straddle both of those things."

The Independent Spirit Awards, now in their 19th year, are organized by the West Coast arm of the Independent Film Project, a group that nurtures indie filmmaking.

First Published: Feb 29, 2004 17:37 IST