David O. Russell won Best Director at the Independent Spirit Award for Silver Linings Playbook. Photo: Brian Brooks

In what seemed like a surprise to many in the big tent in Santa Monica, David O. Russell’s Silver Linings Playbook won Best Feature at the Independent Spirit Awards Saturday afternoon. In fact, the film, which is also up for multiple Oscars Sunday, had a bit of a sweep at the Spirits, taking Best Director, Best Screenplay, and Best Female Lead for Jennifer Lawrence.

“This is unexpected. Beasts of the Southern Wild is a fantastic film and I truly thought it was going to win, but this is a great surprise,” said a Silver Linings producer Donna Gigliotti, accepting the award on stage. “We were sure we weren’t going to win today and we’re sure we’re not going to win tomorrow,” added fellow producer Bruce Cohen.

Almost catching the gasps among some of the crowd, David O. Russell noted during his Best Director acceptance speech, “Benh Zeitlin is a young man, so Benh Zeitlin will be back.”

John Hawkes after winning Best Male Lead for The Sessions. Photo: Brian Brooks

In other prizes, John Hawkes won Best Male Lead for The Sessions. Backstage, he made light of not being nominated tomorrow after a journalist mistakenly asked if he had confidence going into the Oscars. But he saved the moment, saying, “whenever anyone recognizes your art, it gives you confidence.”

Kirby Dick’s The Invisible War (HRWFF ’12) took Best Documentary. The film, which exposes rampant sexual assault in the U.S. military, went up against fellow Oscar nominee How to Survive a Plague (NDNF ’12), clinching the Spirit Award. “Most of the time, the military was completely unaware we were making the film,” said Dick. “After a great deal of persistence on our part they did eventually help. After the film came out we expected a very negative response. Leon Panetta held a press conference afterward and we know that in part it was a result of seeing the film. The first steps were important but there is a long way to go.”

In what may be a precursor to tomorrow, Michael Haneke’s Palme d’Or and Golden Globe winning Amour (NYFF50) won the prize in the Best International category. Matthew McConaughey gave a pro-indie acceptance speech accepting his prize for Best Supporting Male for Magic Mike and Helen Hunt won Best Supporting Female for The Sessions.

Full list of Independent Spirit Award winners:

Best Feature
Winner: Silver Linings Playbook
Beasts Of The Southern Wild
Keep The Lights On
Moonrise Kingdom

Best Director
Winner: David O. Russell, Silver Linings Playbook
Wes Anderson, Moonrise Kingdom
Julia Loktev, The Loneliest Planet
Ira Sachs, Keep The Lights On
Benh Zeitlin, Beasts of the Southern Wild

Best Female Lead
Winner: Jennifer Lawrence, Silver Linings Playbook
Linda Cardenelli, Return
Emayatzy Corinealdi, Middle Of Nowhere
Quvenzhane Wallis, Beasts Of The Southern Wild
Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Smashed

Best Male Lead
Winner: John Hawkes, The Sessions
Jack Black, Bernie
Bradley Cooper, Silver Linings Playbook
Thure Lindhart, Keep The Lights On
Matthew McConaughey, Killer Joe
Wendell Pierce, Four

Best Supporting Female
Winner: Helen Hunt, The Sessions
Rosemarie DeWitt, Your Sister’s Sister
Ann Dowd, Compliance
Brit Marling, Sound Of My Voice
Lorraine Toussaint, MIddle Of Nowhere

Best Supporting Male
Winner: Matthew McConaughey, Magic Mike
David Oyelowom, Middle Of Nowhere
Michael Pena, End Of Watch
Sam Rockwell, Seven Psychopaths
Bruce Willis, Moonrise Kingdom

Best Screenplay
Winner: David O Russell, Silver Linings Playbook
Wes Anderson, Moonrise Kingdom
Zoe Kazan, Ruby Sparks
Martin McDonagh, Seven Psychopaths
Ira Sachs & Mauricio Zacharias, Keep The Lights On

Best Documentary
Winner: The Invisible War
The Central Park Five
How To Survive A Plague
Marina Abramovic: The Artist Is Present
The Waiting Room

Best International Feature
Winner: Amour
Once Upon A TIme In Anatolia
Rust & Bone
War Witch

Best Cinematography
Winner: Ben Richardson, Beasts Of The Southern Wild
End Of Watch
Moonrise Kingdom
Valley Of The Saints

Best First Feature
Winner: The Perks Of Being A Wallflower
Fill The Void
Gimme The Loot
Safety Not Guaranteed
Sound Of My Voice

Best First Screenplay
Winner: Derek Connolly, Safety Not Guaranteed
Rama Burshtein, Fill The Void
Christopher Ford, Robot & Frank
Rashida Jones & Will McCormack, Celeste & Jesse Forever
Jonathan Lisecki, Gayby

John Cassavetes Award
Winner: Middle Of Nowhere
Breakfast With Curtis
The Color Wheel
Mosquita y Mari

Truer Than Fiction Award
Winner:Peter Nicks, The Waiting Room
Lucien Castaing-Taylor and Verena Pravel, Leviathan
Jason Tippet and Elizabeth Mimms, Only The Young

Someone To Watch Award
Winner: Adam Leon, Gimme The Loot
David Fenster, Pincus
Rebecca Thomas, Electrick Children

Piaget Producers Award
Winner: Mynette Louie, Stones In The Sun
Derrick Tseng, Prince Avalanche
Alicia Van Couvering, Nobody Walks

Robert Altman Award
Winner: Starlet (previously announced)