2020 IFP Gotham Awards: ‘First Cow’ is the top nominee

The following is a press release from Independent Filmmaker Project:

 The Independent Filmmaker Project (IFP), the nation’s premier member organization of independent storytellers, announced today the nominees for the 30th Annual IFP Gotham Awards. Eleven competitive awards will be presented to independent features and series.

The IFP Gotham Awards is one of the leading awards for independent film and signals the kick-off to the film awards season. As the first major awards ceremony of the season, the IFP Gotham Awards provide critical early recognition and media attention to worthy independent films. The awards are also unique for their ability to assist in catapulting award recipients prominently into national awards season attention.

“We congratulate the 2020 IFP Gotham Award nominees. In this unprecedented year we look forward to bringing the industry together and shining a light on some incredible films and television shows. We are proud to be celebrating our 30th anniversary in our resilient city, and continuing the core mission of IFP, independent storytelling.” said Jeffrey Sharp, Executive Director of IFP.

Forty-one films and series received nominations this year. Nominees are selected by committees of film critics, journalists, festival programmers, and film curators. Separate juries of writers, directors, actors, producers, editors and others directly involved in making films will determine the final IFP Gotham Award recipients.

The IFP Gotham Awards ceremony will be held on Monday, January 11, 2021. The awards show will be presented live from Cipriani Wall Street New York in a hybrid format featuring virtual interactive tables in order to follow health and safety protocols brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The annual Gotham Actor Tributes, Director Tribute, and Industry Tribute will be announced at a later date.

The 2020 IFP Gotham Award nominations are:

Best Feature

The Assistant

Kitty Green, director; Kitty Green, Scott Macaulay, James Schamus, P. Jennifer Dana, Ross Jacobson, producers (Bleecker Street)

First Cow

Kelly Reichardt, director; Neil Kopp, Vincent Savino, Anish Savjani, producers (A24)

Never Rarely Sometimes Always

Eliza Hittman, director; Adele Romanski, Sara Murphy, producers (Focus Features)

Nomadland

Chloé Zhao, director; Frances McDormand, Peter Spears, Mollye Asher, Dan Janvey, Chloé Zhao, producers (Searchlight Pictures)

Relic

Natalie Erika James, director; Anna Mcleish, Sarah Shaw, Jake Gyllenhaal, Riva Marker, producers (IFC Midnight)

Best Documentary

76 Days

Hao Wu, Weixi Chen, Anonymous, directors; Hao Wu, Jean Tsien, producers (MTV Documentary Films)

City Hall

Frederick Wiseman, director; Frederick Wiseman, Karen Konicek, producers (Zipporah Films)

Our Time Machine

Yang Sun, S. Leo Chiang directors; S. Leo Chiang, Yang Sun, producers (Passion River Films)

A Thousand Cuts

Ramona S. Diaz, director; Ramona S. Diaz, Leah Marino, Julie Goldman, Christopher Clements, Carolyn Hepburn, producers (PBS Distribution | FRONTLINE )

Time

Garrett Bradley, director; Lauren Domino, Kellen Quinn, Garrett Bradley, producers (Amazon Studios)

Best International Feature

Bacurau

Kleber Mendonça Filho, Juliano Dornelles, directors; Emilie Lesclaux, Saïd Ben Saïd, Michel Merkt, producers (Kino Lorber)

Beanpole

Kantemir Balagov, director; Alexander Rodnyansky, Sergey Melkumov, producers (Kino Lorber)

Cuties (Mignonnes)

Maïmouna Doucouré, director; Zangro, producer (Netflix)

Identifying Features

Fernanda Valadez, director; Astrid Rondero, producer (Kino Lorber)

Martin Eden

Pietro Marcello, director; Pietro Marcello, Beppe Caschetto, Thomas Ordonneau, Michael Weber, Viola Fügen, producers (Kino Lorber)

Wolfwalkers

Tomm Moore, Ross Stewart, directors; Paul Young, Nora Twomey, Tomm Moore, Stéphan Roelants, producers (Apple)

Bingham Ray Breakthrough Director Award

Radha Blank for The Forty-Year-Old Version (Netflix)

Channing Godfrey Peoples for Miss Juneteenth (Vertical Entertainment)

Alex Thompson for Saint Frances (Oscilloscope Laboratories)

Carlo Mirabella-Davis for Swallow (IFC Films)

Andrew Patterson for The Vast of Night (Amazon Studios)

Best Screenplay

Bad Education, Mike Makowsky (HBO)

First Cow, Jon Raymond, Kelly Reichardt (A24)

The Forty-Year-Old VersionRadha Blank (Netflix)

Fourteen, Dan Sallitt (Grasshopper Film)

The Vast of Night, James Montague, Craig Sanger (Amazon Studios)

Best Actor

Riz Ahmed in Sound of Metal (Amazon Studios)

Chadwick Boseman in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom (Netflix)

Jude Law in The Nest (IFC Films)

John Magaro in First Cow (A24)

Jesse Plemons in I’m Thinking of Ending Things (Netflix)

Best Actress

Nicole Beharie in Miss Juneteenth (Vertical Entertainment)

Jessie Buckley in I’m Thinking of Ending Things (Netflix)

Yuh-Jung Youn in Minari (A24)

Carrie Coon in The Nest (IFC Films)

Frances McDormand in Nomadland (Searchlight Pictures)

Breakthrough Actor

Jasmine Batchelor in The Surrogate (Monument Releasing)

Kingsley Ben-Adir in One Night in Miami… (Amazon Studios)

Sidney Flanigan in Never Rarely Sometimes Always (Focus Features)

Orion Lee in First Cow (A24)

Kelly O’Sullivan in Saint Frances (Oscilloscope Laboratories)

Breakthrough Series – Long Format (over 40 minutes)

The Great, Tony McNamara, creator; Tony McNamara, Marian Macgowan, Mark Winemaker, Elle Fanning, Brittany Kahan Ward, Doug Mankoff, Andrew Spaulding, Josh Kesselman, Ron West, Matt Shakman, executive producers (Hulu)

Immigration Nation, Christina Clusiau, Shaul Schwarz, Dan Cogan, Jenny Raskin, Brandon Hill, Christian Thompson, executive producers (Netflix)

P-Valley, Katori Hall, creator; Katori Hall, Dante Di Loreto, Peter Chernin, Jenno Topping, Liz W. Garcia, executive producers (STARZ)

Unorthodox, Anna Winger, Alexa Karolinski , creators; Anna Winger, Henning Kamm, executive producers (Netflix)

Watchmen, Damon Lindelof, Creator for Television;  Tom Spezialy , Nicole Kassell , Stephen Williams, Joseph E. Iberti, executive producers (HBO)

Breakthrough Series – Short Format (under 40 minutes)

Betty, Crystal Moselle, Lesley Arfin, Igor Srubshchik, Jason Weinberg, executive producers (HBO)

Dave, Dave Burd, Jeff Schaffer, creators; Dave Burd, Jeff Schaffer, Saladin K. Patterson, Greg Mottola, Kevin Hart, Marty Bowen, Scooter Braun, Mike Hertz, Scott Manson, James Shin,  executive producers (FX Networks)

I May Destroy You, Michaela Coel , creator; Michaela Coel, Phil Clarke, Roberto Troni, executive producers (HBO)

Taste the Nation, Padma Lakshmi, David Shadrack Smith, Sarina Roma, executive producers (Hulu)

Work in Progress, Abby McEnany, Tim Mason, creators, Abby McEnany, Tim Mason, Lilly Wachowski, Lawrence Mattis, Josh Adler, Ashley Berns, Julia Sweeney, Tony Hernandez, executive producers (SHOWTIME)

Gotham Audience Award

IFP members will determine the Gotham Audience Award with nominees comprised of the 20 nominated films in the Best Feature, Best Documentary, Best International Feature, and Bingham Ray Breakthrough Director Award categories. All IFP current, active members are eligible to vote. Voting will take place online in December.

Thirty-five writers, critics and programmers participated in the nomination process.

The Nominating Committees for the 2020 IFP Gotham Awards were:

Nominating Committee for Best Feature and Best Screenplay:

Justin Chang, Film Critic, Los Angeles Times, NPR’s “Fresh Air

K. Austin Collins. Film Critic, Rolling Stone

Eric Kohn, Executive Editor & Chief Critic, IndieWire

Alison Willmore, Film Critic, Vulture

Stephanie Zacharek, Film Critic, TIME

Nominating Committee for Best Documentary:

Ben Fowlie, Executive Director, Points North Institute; Founder, Camden International Film Festival

Cynthia Fuchs, Director Film & Media Studies, George Mason University; Contributing Editor, PopMatters

Sky Sitney, Co-Creator & Co-Director, Double Exposure Investigative Film Festival

Abby Sun, Curator, the DocYard, and Researcher, MIT Open Doc Lab

Alissa Wilkinson, Film Critic, Vox

Nominating Committee for Best International Feature:

Florence Almozini, Senior Programmer at Large, Film at Lincoln Center

Bilge Ebiri, Film Critic and Writer, New York Magazine/Vulture

David Fear, Senior Editor & Film/TV Critic, Rolling Stone

Tomris Laffly, Film Critic, RogerEbert.comVariety

David Rooney, Chief Film Critic, The Hollywood Reporter

Nominating Committee for Breakthrough Director

Monica Castillo, Arts and Culture Reporter, Colorado Public Radio

Peter Debruge, Chief Film Critic, Variety

David Ehrlich, Senior Film Critic, Indiewire

Devika Girish, Assistant Editor, Film Comment and Film at Lincoln Center

Soraya Nadia McDonald, Culture Critic, The Undefeated

Nominating Committee for Best Actor and Best Actress:

Robert Daniels, Contributor, RogerEbert.com and The Playlist

Tim Grierson, Senior U.S. Critic, Screen International; Contributing Editor, MEL

Mark Harris, Writer, New York Magazine

Jessica Kiang, Film Critic, VarietyThe PlaylistSight & Sound

Christy Lemire, Film Critic, RogerEbert.com; Co-host Breakfast All Day podcast

Nominating Committee for Breakthrough Actor:

Kate Erbland, Deputy Editor, Film, IndieWire

Jon Frosch, Reviews Editor, The Hollywood Reporter

Beatrice Loayza, Writer & Film Critic

David Sims, Staff Writer, Culture, The Atlantic

Brian Tallerico, Editor, RogerEbert.com

Nominating Committee for Breakthrough Series

Judy Berman, TV Critic, TIME

Jen Chaney, TV Critic, Vulture

Daniel Fienberg, Chief Television Critic, The Hollywood Reporter

Caroline Framke, TV Critic, Variety

Matthew Gilbert, TV Critic, The Boston Globe

Sponsors
The Premier Sponsor of the 2020 Gotham Awards is The New York Times. The Official Auto Partner is Cadillac, the Official Water Partner is FIJI Water, the Official Airline Partner is JetBlue, and the Official Wine Partner is Robert Hall Winery.

About IFP

The Independent Filmmaker Project (IFP) champions the future of storytelling by connecting artists with essential resources at all stages of development and distribution. The organization, under the leadership of Executive Director and award-winning producer Jeffrey Sharp, fosters a vibrant and sustainable independent storytelling community through its year-round programs, which include IFP Week, Filmmaker Magazine, and the IFP Gotham Awards.

About the IFP Gotham Awards

The IFP Gotham Awards, selected by distinguished juries and presented in New York City, the home of independent film, are the first honors of the film awards season. This public showcase honors the filmmaking community, expands the audience for independent films, and supports the work that IFP does behind the scenes throughout the year to bring such films to fruition.

For information on attending: http://gotham.ifp.org

Review: ‘First Cow,’ starring John Magaro, Orion Lee, Toby Jones and Ewen Bremner

March 6, 2020

by Carla Hay

John Magaro in “First Cow” (Photo courtesy of A24 Films)

“First Cow”

Directed by Kelly Reichardt

Culture Representation: Set in early 19th century Oregon, the drama “First Cow” is about an unexpected friendship between a white cook and a Chinese immigrant in a community of white fur trappers, Native Americans and a few white noblemen.

Culture Clash: Conflicts arise between the “haves” and the “have-nots” when the movie’s main characters steal milk from a nobleman’s cow to start their own makeshift bakery business.

Culture Audience: This movie will appeal primarily to people who like arthouse Westerns that take their time to tell a story.

Orion Lee and John Magaro in “First Cow” (Photo courtesy of A24 Films)

Before seeing the Western drama “First Cow,” it helps to be familiar with the work of director Kelly Reichardt. Her previous credits as a movie writer/director include 2016’s “Certain Women,” 2013’s “Night Moves,” 2010’s “Meek’s Cutoff” and 2008’s “Wendy and Lucy.” If you’ve seen any of these or her other movies, then you already know that she has a very deliberate pacing to her films, which take their time for people to get to know the main characters. Many of her movies utilize the power of silence to great effect, which is the opposite inclination of most of today’s films that try to fill up space with witty dialogue or high-octane action scenes.

In other words, if you think Westerns should be about gun battles and conquering frontiers, then “First Cow” is not the movie for you. Instead, the battles in this movie are more understated. They have to do with the everyday struggles that frontiersmen (this story is told entirely from the perspective of the male characters) experienced in the undeveloped territory of early 19th century Oregon. Even in the wild, wild West, they were still constrained by a social hierarchy.

The brief opening scene of the movie takes place in present-day Oregon, when a woman’s dog has dug up something unusual in a wooded area. The unnamed woman (played by Alia Shawkat) discovers that the dog has found two skeletons lying side by side, and one of them has its hand over the other’s hand. At the end of the movie, we find out how those people got there. There’s a quote from William Blake before the opening credits: “The bird a nest, the spider a web, man friendship.” It’s something to keep in mind as the story unfolds.

For the rest of the movie, viewers are transported back in time to 19th century Oregon, where quiet loner Otis “Cookie” Figowitz is traveling as a cook with a group of fur trappers, who are dressed like they’re at a Daniel Boone fan convention. One of the trappers is a Scotsman named Lloyd (played by Ewen Bremner), who’s a pragmatist for the group. Not much happens at first, as Cookie does mundane things, such eat yellow mushrooms that he finds in the woods.

But one night, Cookie encounter a naked Chinese man who’s hiding in the woods. The man says his name is King-Lu (played by Orion Lee) and that he’s very hungry. Cookie gives King-Lu a blanket and something to eat and drink. King-Lu then opens up that Russian men are chasing after him because he might have killed one of their men because they accused one of King-Lu’s friends of being a thief. King-Lu says he’s naked because he stashed his clothes in some trees as he was running away. King-Lu thanks Cookie for his help, and the two men go their separate ways.

Meanwhile, there’s an intriguing new arrival in the area. A well-built female cow has been delivered to local nobleman Chief Factor (played by Toby Jones). The animal is the talk of the community because it’s the first cow to live in the area. The cow is truly considered a luxury, but Chief Factor just keeps the cow tied up to show it off rather than to use the milk to help feed anyone.

Not long after the cow arrives, Cookie and King-Lu run into each other again at a local saloon. King-Lu, who says that the Russians left the area without finding him, invites Cookie back to his place to drink some more. It’s a very modest home (nothing more than a shack), but Cookie (who’s an orphan from Maryland) feels more comfortable here than he does with the fur trappers he’s been living with during his travels in Oregon.

As the two men develop a friendship, they decide to trespass at night on  Chief Factor’s property, where the cow is held, and secretly milk the cow, who is gentle and friendly. It leads to them to come up with the idea to make biscuits (called oily cakes) from the cow’s milk and to sell the biscuits to the local trappers.

The biscuits are a delicious, instant hit and they always sell out. Thus starts a pattern: Cookie and King-Lu both sneak onto the property at night. Cookie milks the cow, while King-Lu acts as a lookout. Cookie is the creative cook for the business, while King-Lu is the more entrepreneurial- minded partner who shrewdly thinks up ways to expand their business. He even imagines that they could make enough money to someday buy their own cow. However, Cookie is more hesitant, because he worries about how much longer they can continue to steal the cow’s milk without getting caught.

Their biscuits become so in-demand that their customers sometimes push each other out of the way to buy the food. King-Lu takes advantage of this frenzy by auctioning off the last biscuit to the highest bidder. When people ask what the biscuit’s ingredients are, King-Lu says, “Ancient Chinese secret.” Cookie becomes so attached to the cow that he begins talking to her while he milks her.

Even when the cow’s owner, Chief Factor, shows up to buy some biscuits, he doesn’t detect the taste of milk, and therefore he has no idea that his cow’s milk is being used to make the biscuits. Chief Factor is so impressed with Cookie’s baking skills (Cookie has previous training as a baker) that he hires him to make blueberry claufotis for a dinner party that he’s having.

Chief Factor also invites the two men to his home to present the claufotis to his main dinner guest: an out-of-town visitor called Captain (played by Scott Shepherd), a colleague who thinks that this rough area can’t possibly have sophisticated meals. But when Chief Factor takes Captain, Cookie and King-Lu out to the back of his property to show off the cow, Captain notices that the cow is acting a little to friendly to Cookie.

Riechardt co-wrote the “First Cow” screenplay with Jonathan Raymond, the author of the novel of the same time. There’s a level of authenticity that the movie conveys, because it shows that life in this wild frontier could be filled with stretches of tedium for unmarried, childless men who are focused on trying to make a living and possibly get rich.

It’s that possibility to reinvent themselves as potential wealthy entrepreneurs that keeps them motivated in this harsh environment where they aren’t living a traditional and comfortable life. But just like Gold Rush hopefuls getting blinded by impatient greed, there’s the possibility that Cookie and King-Lu could succumb to the same vice. The heart of the story is the friendship between these two men and whether or not it can survive materialistic temptations.

A24 Films released “First Cow” in select U.S. cinemas on March 6, 2020.