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Hasan Minhaj was in His Element Hosting the 38th Indie Spirit Awards; Pakistan’s ‘Joyland’ Wins Best International Film

Hasan Minhaj was in His Element Hosting the 38th Indie Spirit Awards; Pakistan’s ‘Joyland’ Wins Best International Film

  • India's "All That Breathes" by Shaunak Sen, nominated for Best Documentary Feature at the 2023 Oscars, did not make the cut here.

The 2023 Film Independent Spirit Awards on Saturday, March 4, was hosted by acclaimed Indian American comedian Hasan Minhaj and broadcast live on IMDb’s YouTube channel and Film Independent’s YouTube and Twitter accounts. 

IFC cable channel (which had broadcasted the show in past years) did not renew its contract. Minhaj – on fire throughout the show – took potshots at the IFC network for dropping the broadcast of the Spirit Awards to stream the 2008 Will Ferrell comedy “Semi-Pro” instead. At the same time, it was a genius move by the desi Peabody Award winner. Said Minhaj, “Award shows are dead. My 2-year-old watches slime videos with more views than the Oscars. But you all showed up, which means that you’re truly in it for the love of the game. No one asked you to make the movies you made, and honestly, no one watched them.”

Director Salim Sadiq at the Film Independent Spirit Awards, won Best International Film for ‘Joyland’. (Photo by Sunil Sadarangani.)

This year’s ceremony, the 38th in Film Independent’s history that annually takes place in Santa Monica beach in Los Angeles, was marked by several firsts. Most notable was a switch to gender-neutral acting categories and the introduction of a Best Breakthrough Performance award.

“Everything Everywhere All At Once” made a clean sweep of the awards with seven wins. These included Best Feature, Best Director and Best Screenplay for Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert, Best Lead Performance for Michelle Yeoh, Best Supporting Performance for Ke Huy Quan, Best Breakthrough Performance for Stephanie Hsu, and Best Editing for Paul Rogers. Among the other films and artists honored, “Aftersun” won Best First Feature; John Patton Ford won Best First Screenplay for “Emily the Criminal; Florian Hoffmeister of Tár” won Best Cinematography. 

The only South Asian win out of the Spirit Awards iconic tent was Pakistan’s “Joyland” for Best International Film by first-time filmmaker Salim Sadiq. India’s “All That Breathes” by Shaunak Sen, nominated for Best Documentary Feature at the 2023 Oscars, lost out to “All The Beauty and The Bloodshed.”

“Joyland” is about Haider Rana (Ali Junejo), who is married to a woman, and amidst pressure and ridicule from his father, finds work as a backup dancer for the transgender performer Biba (Alina Khan), opening his eyes to another way to love — and another way of life. Speaking to American Kahani in the winner’s tent about the challenges of making the film, director Sadiq said, “I am really good at blocking out noise. When you are hell-bent on telling a story you want to tell, I don’t think it takes as much bravery as people think to make it [a film] – it would take a lot more bravery not to make this movie. It [Joyalnd] was banned in Pakistan, and there was, of course, a certain level of aggression, a certain level of oppression. The threat was very real, unfortunately, but that’s the price you pay when you are trying to tell anything. if it was divisive, sometimes it’s hurtful, but then if it wasn’t so divisive, then probably it’s also that the film isn’t saying much.”

This year’s major winners in the TV categories were “The Bear,” which won Best New Scripted Series and Best Supporting Performance in a New Scripted Series for Ayo Edebiri; The Rehearsal,” which won Best New Non-Scripted or Documentary Series; Quinta Brunson of “Abbott Elementary,” who won Best Lead Performance in a New Scripted Series; and “Pachinko,” which won Best Ensemble Cast in a New Scripted Series.

Also celebrated were “The Cathedral” with the John Cassavetes Award, given to the best feature made for under $1,000,000 (raised from $500,000 in previous years); Nikyatu Jusu of Nanny” with the Someone to Watch Award, recognizing a filmmaker of singular vision who has not yet received appropriate recognition; Reid Davenport of I Didn’t See You” There with the Truer Than Fiction Award, presented to an emerging director of non-fiction features who has yet to receive significant recognition; and Tory Lenosky with the Producers Award, honoring emerging producers who demonstrate the creativity, tenacity, and vision required to produce quality independent films with limited resources.

Here is the complete list of the winners:


Best Feature

Everything Everywhere All At Once (A24)

Producers: Daniel Kwan, Mike Larocca, Anthony Russo, Joe Russo, Daniel Scheinert, Jonathan Wang

Best Director

Daniel Kwan, Daniel Scheinert, Everything Everywhere All At Once (A24)

Best Screenplay

Daniel Kwan, Daniel Scheinert, Everything Everywhere All At Once (A24)

Best First Feature

Aftersun (A24)

Director: Charlotte Wells

Producers: Mark Ceryak, Amy Jackson, Barry Jenkins, Adele Romanski

Best First Screenplay

John Patton Ford, Emily the Criminal (Roadside Attractions and Vertical Entertainment)

John Cassavetes Award

(for best feature made under $1,000,000)

The Cathedral (MUBI)

Writer/Director: Ricky D’Ambrose

Producer: Graham Swon

Best Breakthrough Performance

Stephanie Hsu, Everything Everywhere All At Once (A24)

Best Supporting Performance

Ke Huy Quan, Everything Everywhere All At Once (A24)

Best Lead Performance

Michelle Yeoh, Everything Everywhere All At Once (A24)

Robert Altman Award

Women Talking (Orion Releasing/United Artists Releasing)

Director: Sarah Polley

Casting Directors: John Buchan, Jason Knight

Ensemble Cast: Shayla Brown, Jessie Buckley, Claire Foy, Kira Guloien, Kate Hallett, Judith Ivey, Rooney Mara, Sheila McCarthy, Frances McDormand, Michelle McLeod, Liv McNeil, August Winter, Ben Whishaw

Best Cinematography

Florian Hoffmeister, TÁR (Focus Features)

Best Editing

Paul Rogers, Everything Everywhere All At Once (A24)

Best International Film

Joyland (Oscilloscope)

Director: Saim Sadiq

Best Documentary

All the Beauty and the Bloodshed (NEON)

Director/Producer: Laura Poitras

Producers: Howard Gertler, Nan Goldin, Yoni Golijov, John Lyons

See Also

Someone to Watch

Nikyatu Jusu, Nanny (Amazon Studios)

Truer Than Fiction

Reid Davenport, I Didn’t See You There (POV)

Producers Award

Tory Lenosky


Best New Scripted Series

The Bear (FX)

Creator/Executive Producer: Christopher Storer

Executive Producers: Joanna Calo, Josh Senior, Hiro Murai

Co-Executive Producer: Rene Gube

Best New Non-Scripted or Documentary Series

The Rehearsal (HBO/HBO Max)

Creator/Executive Producer: Nathan Fielder

Executive Producers: Dave Paige, Dan McManus, Christie Smith

Co-Executive Producers: Carrie Kemper, Eric Notarnicola

Best Supporting Performance in a New Scripted Series

Ayo Edebiri, The Bear (FX)

Best Lead Performance in a New Scripted Series

Quinta Brunson, Abbott Elementary (ABC)

Best Ensemble Cast in a New Scripted Series

Pachinko (Apple+)

Ensemble Cast: Jin Ha, Lee Minho, Minha Kim, Soji Arai, Inji Jeong, Kaho Minami, Steve Sanghyun Noh, Anna Sawai, Jimmi Simpson, Yuh-jung Youn.

Sunil Sadarangani is a Los Angeles-based multiple award-winning producer and writer. He has produced award-winning short films “In Transit” (Shorts TV and Oscar nomination qualifier), “Blind,” “Nova,” and “With You.” He is the co-founder and Director of Programming of the Ojai Short Film Festival, now in its third season. He is a charter member of the Programmers of Color Collective (POC2) and was on the jury of the 2019 Los Angeles Greek Film Festival and was a Senior Assistant Programmer at the Indian Film Festival of Los Angeles. He currently volunteers on the assistant programming committee at Outfest, Los Angeles. Sunil is an officially accredited writer covering film and digital media at leading film festivals and industry award events. The California State Senate has recognized him for his ongoing commitment to creativity and innovation in the Los Angeles community. Sadarangani is the co-founder of Omagination Pictures, a production company representing and producing South Asian creators and stories. He has been instrumental in securing IP content as well as forging associations with industry executives and creators for the company.

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