The first significant awards event of the current film cycle spread its net wide, but the main attention of the 2021 Gotham awards, designed to reward independent film-makers, was focused on a tearful speech given by Simone Ledward as she accepted an award on behalf of her late husband Chadwick Boseman.
Boseman had been announced as a recipient of the Gothams’ annual tribute award, along with Viola Davis, Steve McQueen and Ryan Murphy. Ledward, whose marriage to Boseman was made public only after the actor’s death, said in her speech: “He was the most honest person I ever met … He was blessed to live many lives within his concentrated one. He harnessed the power of letting go and letting God’s love shine through. May we not let his conviction be in vain. It is my honour on behalf of my husband.”
She added: “Chad … thank you. I love you. I am so proud of you. Keep shining your light on us.”
Boseman was also nominated for best actor for his performance in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, a biopic of the celebrated blues singer played by Davis. However, in the event the award went to Riz Ahmed for his role as a drummer with hearing problems in Sound of Metal, catapulting Ahmed into the wider awards race. There was another surprise win in the best actress category, with Nicole Beharie winning for her performance as a former pageant winner in Miss Juneteeth, defeating strong favourite Frances McDormand who had been nominated for festival hit Nomadland.
However, Nomadland, the widely admired study of retiree victims of the 2008 financial crash directed by Chloé Zhao, did take two prizes – best feature and the audience award – making it the only film to claim more than one win on the night, cementing its status as an Oscar frontrunner.
Michaela Cole’s I May Destroy You continued its remarkable run by picking up the breakthrough series – short format award.
Full list of awards
Best feature Nomadland
Best documentary A Thousand Cuts
Best international feature Identifying Features
Breakthrough director award Andrew Patterson, The Vast of Night
Best screenplay The Forty-Year-Old Version and Fourteen (joint winners)
Best actor Riz Ahmed, Sound of Metal
Best actress Nicole Beharie, Miss Juneteenth
Breakthrough actor Kingsley Ben-Adir, One Night in Miami
Breakthrough series – long format Watchmen
Breakthrough Series – short format I May Destroy You
Audience award Nomadland