IFP's Gotham Awards salute independent films, possible Oscar nominees

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The 19th annual Gotham Independent Film Awards kicks off the upcoming award season, presenting a series of honors for films released in 2009 that often forecasts favorites for Oscar contenders.

On November 30 at New York City, the winners will be announced, along with special career tributes to actors Stanley Tucci and Natalie Portman, director Katheryn Bigelow ( The Hurt Locker), and producers Tim Bevan and Eric Fellner ( A Serious Man, The Soloist, Frost/Nixon).

Since 1979, the nonprofit IFP (Independent Feature Project) has represented 10,000 independent filmmakers around the world, providing seminars, conferences, mentorships, supporting the production of 350 independent films annually, and publishing Filmmaker magazine.

The Gotham Independent Film Awards, the organization's marquee event, spotlights a total of 23 films in several categories, also screening notable films under its signature theme: "Best Film Not Playing at a Theater Near You," at the Museum of Modern Art in New York city, November 19-22.

Best Feature: The nominees are: Amreeka (Cherien Dabis, director), Big Fan (Robert Siegel, director), The Hurt Locker (Kathryn Bigelow, director), The Maid (Sebastian Silva, director), and A Serious Man (Joel Coen and Ethan Coen, directors/producers)

Best Documentary: Food, Inc., an expose of agribusiness, Good Hair, comedian Chris Rock's socio-cultural exploration of African-American hair, My Neighbor My Killer, on the aftermath of the 1994 Rwanda genocide, the impressionistic Paradise, and Tyson, which follows the troubled boxer.

Best Ensemble Performance: Adventureland (with Kristen Stewart, Ryan Reynolds), Cold Souls (with Lauren Ambrose, Paul Giamatti, Emily Watson, David Strathairn), The Hurt Locker (Jeremy Renner, Ralph Fiennes, Guy Pearce), also A Serious Man, and Sugar.

Breakthrough Actor: Ben Foster ( The Messenger), Patton Oswalt ( Big Fan), Jeremy Renner ( The Hurt Locker), Catalina Saavedra ( The Maid), and Souléymane Sy Savané ( Goodbye Solo).

The nominating committees include the film curator from the Museum of Modern Art, film critics from publications Variety and Los Angeles Times, and programmers from the Sundance Film Festival.