Lulu Wang’s poignant family drama The Farewell has taken the top prize at the 35th Film Independent Spirit Awards.
Wang appeared visibly shocked when presenter Robert De Niro called the name of her acclaimed film, ahead of hotly tipped favourite Uncut Gems.
Based on Wang’s own experience, The Farewell stars Awkwafina as an American-Chinese writer visiting her dying Nai Nai, or grandmother, who is unaware she has months to live.
Taking to the stage, Wang, who was among the female directors snubbed at the Oscars, said women did not need encouragement to make films, just opportunity.
“You don’t have to encourage women, there are lots of women making films and who are in film school” she said.
“What women need is just the job. Give them the fricking job. Give them the money.”
Speaking backstage, Wang added women should “be more entitled”.
The Spirit Awards, an annual celebration of independent cinema, take place on the eve of the Oscars in a tent on the windswept beach at Santa Monica.
To qualify, a movie must have been made within a budget of $22.5 million (£17.5 million).
It was an opportunity for Uncut Gems, the Safdie brothers’s high-intensity crime drama, to be recognised after it was another controversial omission in the Academy Awards nominations.
Adam Sandler made up for his Oscars snub by taking home the best male lead prize for his portrayal of fast-talking New York City jeweller Howard Ratner.
Renee Zellweger, who is all-but certain to win best actress at the Oscars, picked up best female lead for playing Judy Garland in biopic Judy. She dedicated the prize to the late Hollywood star.
Benny and Josh Safdie won best director, while Uncut Gems also earned the best editing prize.
Elsewhere, South Korean dark comedy Parasite, a major best picture contender at the Oscars, was named international film of the year.
Hustlers star Jennifer Lopez missed out on the supporting female prize to Zhao Shuzhen, who played the dying grandmother in The Farewell.
Wang accepted the prize on Shuzhen’s behalf as the 85-year-old remained in China because of the corona virus.
Best supporting male was won by Willem Dafoe for his role in Robert Eggers’s gripping black-and-white drama The Lighthouse.
Defoe said he shared the award with his co-star Robert Pattinson, adding “it takes two to tango”.
Noah Baumbach was on stage twice, first collecting the best screenplay prize for the Netflix family drama Marriage Story and then again with the film’s cast and crew as they collected the Robert Altman Award.
Best documentary went to American Factory, which won ahead of Bafta-winning For Sama.
The cast of coming-of-age comedy Booksmart – including stars Beanie Feldstein and Kaitlyn Dever – shared an on-stage group hug with director Olivia Wilde after the film won best first feature.
The John Cassavetes Award, presented to the creative team of a film made on a budget of less than $500,000 (£387,000), was awarded to comedy-drama Give Me Liberty.
Best first screenplay went to Fredrica Bailey and Stefon Bristol for See You Yesterday.
Parks And Recreation star Aubrey Plaza returned as host for the Spirit Awards and opened the show by poking fun at the Oscars for once again ignoring female filmmakers in the best director category.