February 2, 2010

Oscar Nominees React to Good News

The Oscar nominations have been announced. And the reactions to the good news are already coming in.

After hearing the news this morning, The Cove director Louie Psihoyos said the following about his film which exposes the dark reality of a dolphin slaughter in Taiji, Japan (and has inspired many to take action):

"The reason the Oscar nomination is so important for me is because it's the most watched program in Japanese television. I didn't get into movies to win awards. I got into making this movie to start a movement to save the ocean. I've been trying to give the oceans a voice and an Oscar nomination amplifies that voice."

Despite the early morning hour, Food, Inc. director Robert Kenner was energetic on the phone when we spoke to him after he heard the news of his nomination. "Who would have thought a film about how food gets to the table would be nominated for an Oscar?," he joked. "It's great on so many levels. We were thrilled that people like the film, we were thrilled that people came to the film, but we're also thrilled that people are listening to what the film is about on very high levels. We got in to see the secretary of agriculture...we were just on Oprah, and we're now the #1 DVD on Amazon."

We also talked briefly about the oft-discussed idea that the Oscars sometimes reward the "issue" of a film, rather than the film itself. Kenner had this to say: "I personally think good film should be rewarded. Just because you do a film on a particular subject doesn't mean you should get an award for it. How do you make a film for people who disagree with your or haven't thought about the issue? To make a film for people who agree with you already and slap you on the back does nothing. You need to reach out to a broader audience, to people who haven't thought about your subject before, in a way that's entertaining and filmic. You have to be a filmmmaker.  From our opening sequence on, I was trying to use film language to tell this story."


Reached by phone, Judith Ehrlich, director/producer, with Rick Goldsmith, of The Most Dangerous Man in America: Daniel Ellseberg and the Pentagon Papers, said, "To me, the most important thing about this film is getting this message out of somebody standing up to a misguided war, which Daniel Ellsberg did. He's probably our best example in the 20th century of somebody who risked everything to stop a war. And the message is still incredibly relevant today, and he's still making comparisons between the Vietnam War and the Afghanistan War and how parallel those two are, given the quagmire we're in at the moment. He took enormous personal risks to stand up with that message then, and we still need that message now and hopefully this nomination will get that message out to a lot more people."

Burma VJ producer Lise Lense-Moller commented by e-mail from Denmark: "To me as a filmmaker, it is great and quite surreal.  Having made films out of Denmark for over 30 years--and mainly docs at that--an Oscar nomination is not really something you dream of or even consider, so it is a bit like an adventure. I hope it can help us to continue making films about important issues around the world. For the film--and especially for the Burmese video journalists and their fight to keep the Burma issue alive in the global consciousness--it means a lot.  Awareness is what they want, and an Oscar nomination no doubt will help."


Producer Patrick Wright, chair of the video and film arts department at the Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA), was watching E! Online when he found out the news that his film, Music by Prudence, had been nominated in the Documentary Short category. He told us via email that his three worlds to describe his reaction when he heard the news were, "No F***ing Way!". He also expressed his gratitude to MICA, which was instrumental in helping the film get made.

Several years ago, there was talk about eliminating the Short Documentary category, but Wright thinks it's an important component of the Oscars. He said, "We need all the PR and spotlights that there are since there are so few. Not all subjects and stories warrant feature length. We'd all be better off is there were more shorts."

Music by Prudence is already feeling the effect of that spotlight. Wright relayed the news that director Roger William's phone has been ringing off the hook from film festivals all over the world today.  

More reactions to come throughout the day...