Steve McQueen's 12 Years a Slave

New York Film Festival debut 12 Years a Slave swept major awards at the Independent Spirit Awards Saturday afternoon in Santa Monica, winning Best Feature, Best Director for Steve McQueen, Best Screenplay for John Ridley, as well as Best Supporting Actress for Lupita Nyong'o and Best Cinematography  for Sean Bobbitt. The film is a favorite along with Gravity to triumph at tomorrow's Oscars for Best Picture. Ryan Coogler's Sundance 2013 winner Fruitvale Station won Best First Feature at the ceremony, held in a tent compound near the beach.

Coogler was featured at Film Society's Free Talks last summer, saying about his film that centered on the murder of Oscar Grant on New Year's Day in 2009, “As a filmmaker, I try to find the happiness and the darkness and the sadness and see how we can grow from that.”

Nebraska's Bob Nelson won the prize for Best First Screenplay Saturday, while NYFF51 gala honoree Cate Blanchett won Best Female Lead for Woody Allen's  Blue Jasmine. Pundits have all but bestowed tomorrow's Oscar on the actress. Best Actor, meanwhile went to another favorite tomorrow, Matthew McConaughey for Dallas Buyers Club. The actor spoke at the Film Society late last week about the long preparation for taking on the role, noting: “This was not an eccentric affected choice, it was something I needed to do.” McConaughey's co-star, Jared Leto, meanwhile picked up Best Supporting Actor at the Spirits.

Best International Film went to last year's Cannes Palme d'Or winner Blue Is the Warmest Color, which had its U.S. debut at NYFF51, while Best Documentary went to audience and box office pleaser, 20 Feet from Stardom, which is also up for an Oscar Sunday.

Abdellatif Kechiche's NYFF51 feature Blue Is the Warmest Color.

The full list of 2014 Independent Spirit Award winners follows:

Best Feature: 12 Years a Slave (Fox Searchlight Pictures)

Producers: Dede Gardner, Anthony Katagas, Jeremy Kleiner, Steve McQueen, Arnon Milchan, Brad Pitt, Bill Pohlad

Best Director: Steve McQueen, 12 Years a Slave (Fox Searchlight Pictures)

Best Screenplay: John Ridley, 12 Years a Slave (Fox Searchlight Pictures)

Best First Feature: Fruitvale Station (The Weinstein Company)

Director: Ryan Coogler, Producers: Nina Yang Bongiovi, Forest Whitaker

Best First Screenplay: Bob Nelson, Nebraska (Paramount Pictures)

John Cassavetes Award (For best feature made under $500,000): This Is Martin Bonner (Monterey Media Inc)
Writer/Director: Chad Hartigan, Producer: Cherie Saulter

Best Supporting Female: Lupita Nyong’o, 12 Years a Slave (Fox Searchlight Pictures)

Best Supporting Male: Jared Leto, Dallas Buyers Club (Focus Features)

Best Female Lead: Cate Blanchett, Blue Jasmine (Sony Pictures Classics)

Best Male Lead: Matthew McConaughey, Dallas Buyers Club (Focus Features)

Robert Altman Award: Mud (Roadside Attractios/Lionsgate), 
Director: Jeff Nichols, Casting Director: Francine Maisler, Ensemble Cast: Joe Don Baker, Jacob Lofland, Matthew McConaughey, Ray McKinnon, Sarah Paulson, Michael Shannon, Sam Shepard, Tye Sheridan, Paul Sparks, Bonnie Sturdivant, Reese Witherspoon

Best Cinematography: Sean Bobbitt, 12 Years a Slave (Fox Searchlight Pictures)

Best Editing: Nat Sanders, Short Term 12 (Cinedigm)

Best International Film: Blue Is the Warmest Color (France- IFC Films)
Director: Abdellatif Kechiche

Best Documentary: 20 Feet from Stardom (RADiUS-TWC)
Director/Producer: Morgan Neville, Producers: Gil Friesen, Caitrin Rogers