LOS ANGELES — The race to Oscar has officially begun, as the slavery exploration “12 Years a Slave” was nominated for a leading seven Spirit Awards, which honor independent film with a budget less than $20 million.

The Steve McQueen-directed drama is up for best feature, best director, best actor (Chiwetel Ejiofer), best supporting actress (Lupita Nyong’o), best supporting actor (Michael Fassbender), best screenplay (John Ridley) and best cinematography (Sean Bobbitt).

With six nominations, Alexander Payne’s black-and-white comedy “Nebraska” is also in the running for best feature, best director, best actor for Bruce Dern, best supporting actress for June Squibb, best supporting actor for Will Forte and best first screenplay for Bob Nelson.

Other best-picture contenders include J.C. Chandor’s “All is Lost,” Noah Baumbach’s “Frances Ha” and the Coen brothers’ “Inside Llewyn Davis.”

“All is Lost” also earned a best director slot for Chandor. Also up for best director are Jeff Nichols for the coming-of-age drama “Mud” and Shane Carruth for “Upstream Color.”

Along with Ejiofor and Dern, the best male lead category includes Oscar Isaac for “Inside Llewyn Davis,” Matthew McConaughey for “Dallas Buyers Club,” Robert Redford for “All is Lost” and Michael B. Jordan for “Fruitvale Station.”

Among best actress nominees are Julie Delpy for “Before Midnight,” Cate Blanchett for “Blue Jasmine,” Gaby Hoffmann for “Crystal Fairy,” Brie Larson for “Short Term 12” and Shailene Woodley for “The Spectacular Now.”