‘My cheeks hurt because I can’t stop smiling’: Ruth Negga wins Independent Spirit Award

The Limerick star received the best supporting actress award for Passing

Ruth Negga has won best supporting actress at the Independent Spirit Awards for her performance in Rebecca Hall’s Passing.

The actress, from Limerick, will see this as some consolation for unexpectedly not being nominated at the upcoming Academy Awards.

Negga beat Jessie Buckley, nominated at the Spirits for Maggie Gyllenhaal's The Lost Daughter, to the prize at a famously casual ceremony by Santa Monica Pier. Buckley, raised in Kerry, will go on to compete for an Oscar on March 27th.

Playing a black woman passing for white in 1920s Harlem, Negga has received universal acclaim since Passing premiered at the Sundance Film Festival over a year ago. She is nominated at the upcoming Bafta awards and was a winner with the London Film Critics Circle and the National Society of Film Critics.

"My cheeks hurt because I can't stop smiling," Negga, who is about to appear in Macbeth opposite Daniel Craig on Broadway, said on a video link.

“This is a really lovely honour. I am sorry I can’t be there. I am rehearsing for a play. I would just like to share this with the entire cast and crew of Passing. …

"Nothing can be created in isolation – without anybody else. We create in solidarity with others. This is an award for all of us. I am so proud of being part of such a beautiful film. I would like to express my solidarity with the peoples of Ukraine. "

Critical smash

The Lost Daughter, adaptation of a novel by Elena Ferrante, won both best picture and best director at the Spirits. A surprise critical smash at the Venice Film Festival, the drama has Buckley and Olivia Colman playing younger and older versions of the same conflicted mother.

Taylour Page won best actress for her role in the off-beat Zola, adapted from a Twitter thread. “I wrote something because I’m not very eloquent… and I’m drunk,” Page said from the stage.

Simon Rex, formerly an MTV VJ, took the best actor prize for Sean Baker's loose-limbed Texan drama Red Rocket.

“I don’t care about fame or money. I got caught in that trap a long time ago,” he said. “I just care about doing good work.”

Founded in 1984, the Independent Spirits honour films at the more economically budgeted end of the spectrum.

There has been some crossover with the Oscars in the past. Last year’s best feature winner Nomadland went on to take best picture with the Academy. Other titles to manage the double over the last decade include Moonlight, Spotlight and 12 Years a Slave.

This year, however, not a single film nominated for best feature at the Spirits is up for best picture. There was a similar divergence across the acting nominations, but Troy Kotsur, winner of best supporting actor here for Coda, has boosted his chances at the Oscars – even if none of his competitors there were on the grid at Santa Monica.

Donald Clarke

Donald Clarke

Donald Clarke, a contributor to The Irish Times, is Chief Film Correspondent and a regular columnist