Filmmaker Benh Zeitlin accepting the breakthrough director award for Beasts of the Southern Wild at the Gotham Awards.

A mix of widely acclaimed and sorely under-screened movies were recognized tonight in New York City with the presentation of the annual Gotham Independent Film Awards. Twenty-six films competed for six competitive awards at the IFP Gotham Awards (see the complete list of nominees), an event that kicks off the annual awards season. 

The prize for best picture went to Wes Anderson's Moonrise Kingdom, the opening night film at this year's Cannes Film Festival. 

Filmmaker Benh Zeitlin, who battled back from a dramatic car accident just a few years ago, accepted the breakthrough director award for Beasts of the Southern Wild. On stage to receive the prize in Lower Manhattan this evening, Zeitlin singled out cast and crew, thanking funders Cinereach for supporting his bold vision and also paid special tribute to editor Affonso Gonçalves for working to shape the movie during a long post-production period.

Zeitlin also received the inaugural Bingham Ray Award in honor of the former head of the San Francisco Film Society who passed away days before the film's debut at this year's Sundance Film Festival.

Accepting the audience award for best movie of the year tonight, actor Jared Leto oddly apologized to the audience as well as the team behind Beasts of the Southern Wild for beating the film in online ballotting. Leto produced Artifact, the hit from the recent Toronto International Film Festival that won the people's prize at the Gotham Awards tonight.

David France, director of How To Survive a Plague, gratefully accepted the Gotham Award for best documentary. Praising the Act-Up movement at the heart of this poignant non-fiction film, France called his subject “a remarkable blueprint for social movements of all kinds.” 

First time feature director Terence Nance won the Best Film Not Playing at the Theater Near You prize for his distinctive debut film, An Oversimplification of Her Beauty. The handcrafted indie mix of animation and live action debuted at Sundance and later screened at New Directors/New Films this Spring, alongside Beasts and Plague

The prizes were presented alongside career tributes to Marion Cotillard, Matt Damon, David O. Russell and Participant Media's Jeff Skoll.

Full list of winners:

Best Feature: 
Moonrise Kingdom
Wes Anderson, director; Wes Anderson, Scott Rudin, Steven Rales, Jeremy Dawson, producers (Focus Features)

Audience Award:
Bartholomew Cubbins, director;  Jared Leto, Emma Ludbrook, producers.

Bingham Ray Award:
Beasts of the Southern Wild
Benh Zeitlin, director. 

Best Documentary:
How to Survive a Plague
David France, director; Howard Gertler, David France, producers (Sundance Selects)

Best Ensemble Performance
Your Sister’s Sister
Emily Blunt, Rosemarie Dewitt, Mark Duplass (IFC Films)

Breakthrough Director
Benh Zeitlin for Beasts of the Southern Wild (Fox Searchlight Pictures)

Breakthrough Actor
Emayatzy Corinealdi in Middle of Nowhere (AFFRM and Participant Media)

Best Film Not Playing at a Theater Near You
An Oversimplification of Her Beauty
Terence Nance, director; Terence Nance, Andrew Corkin, James Bartlett, producers

‘Live the Dream’ Grant Nominees
Stacie Passon, director, Concussion