The 2011 Film Independent Spirit Awards were determinedly irreverent and sometimes even funny — see Joel McHale‘s In Memoriam gag above. Amid all the hip facetiousness, if you were watching at home in Baltimore, it was still possible to feel some old-fashioned hometown pride for winners raised here and throughout Maryland.
The big Baltimore winner was Bart Walker, a New York-based but Mt. Washington-bred graduate of the Park School, who spent a half-decade helping shepherd Lisa Cholodenko‘s “The Kids Are All Right” to the screen. Walker joined Cinetic Media, a company that offers what Walker calls a complete film-production “menu,” in 2007, after 16 years as an agent for top writers and directors at ICM and CAA. For a client like Cholodenko, Walker strives to secure financing, create artist-oriented work environments, and bargain for creative rights like “final cut.” Cholodenko thanked Walker from the stage when she and cowriter Stuart Blumberg accepted the best screenplay award for “Kids.”
With his Cinetic partner John Sloss, Walker also formed Producers Distribution Agency to get Banksy’s “Exit Through the Gift Shop” into theaters nationwide. Thierry Guetta (“Mr. Brainwash”) accepted the best documentary award for Banksy, with a rambling follow-your-dream thank-you speech that only furthered skeptics’ suspicions that “Exit” is a staged documentary if it’s a documentary at all.
Let’s also not forget Debra Granik, the director of the searing drama “Winter’s Bone,” who came of age in Bethesda and Silver Spring. The film won best supporting male and best supporting female awards for John Hawkesworth and Dale Dickey, respectively.
Moviemaking friends of the Maryland Film Festival who won last night included Lena Dunham for best first screenplay (“Tiny Furniture”) and Bennie and Josh Safdie for best feature made under $500,000 (“Daddy Long Legs”). Dunham and the Safdies brought their films to MFF 2010. Their star, Ronald Bronstein, took his own film, “Frownland,” to MFF 2007.
What independent film gathering would be complete without John Waters? He first appeared in a droll “127 Hours” parody with McHale, Dale Dickey, and a Banksy impersonator. Midway through the show, the most goodhearted funny moment came when the announcer asked the audience to rise for our “national….TREASURE,” and out walked Waters.