I don’t usually write about the smaller awards, like the Gotham Independent Film Awards, but I’ve been following the story of Ballast, a really surprising and effective indie I saw at Sundance, and that film has become the major contender at this year’s awards.

Ballast is notable because the director bought the film back from IFC and decided to distribute it all on his own (read my story on that here), a truly ballsy move in the current market. And one that may be paying off. Ballast is the biggest nom getter at IFA, beating other notable titles like The Wrestler and Synecdoche, New York. Ballast has been nominated for best feature, breakthrough director, breakthrough actor and best ensemble.

This year’s IFA is a little different from the past, as the awards group have moved their focused solely to films coming from indie distributors (which is still pretty misleading, as The Wrestler, for example, is at Fox Searchlight. These aren’t films struggling to be seen in the same way Ballast is. But then again, neither are they The Departed, which won best feature two years ago and ignited a firestorm of controversy). This year’s batch of nominees is a veritable list of films I’ve been recommending to you guys, including Man on Wire, up for best documentary.

But the big winner will be Ballast, even if it isn’t taking home all the prizes for which it’s nominated. A tiny movie like this, with a real homegrown distribution plan, needs the attention that these nominations can give it.

Meanwhile, IFP (the group behind the IFA) executive director Michelle Byrd has some nice words for people who love independent film:  “Contradicting the doom-and-gloom stories about the state of
independent film, 2008 has proven to be an extremely strong year
for an immensely diverse group of filmmakers tackling a range of
subjects and forms in new and dynamic ways… Impressively, nearly 50% of our titles are
directorial debuts.”