NIAMH CREELY talks to filmmaker Juanita Wilson about her Oscar®-nominated short The Door which explores the legacy of Chernobyl, and finds out just how helpful the nomination has been for her debut feature As If I’m Not There.
NIAMH: The Door had a very impressive festival life. Was there a point when you realised it was really taking off?
JUANITA: Yes. Well, The Door kind of started slowly. It got mentioned in Galway. And then it won an award in Cork. The first festival that it won Best Short in was Foyle, which was fantastic. And literally on the same day, it won Best Short in Bilbao. That was kind of, ‘wow, okay!’ In two parts of the world at the same time, with a programme of international shorts, and it’s won! Every award after that was an absolute bonus, but particularly the Academy nomination, the access to the audiences in the States and the feedback from there as well.
How do you go about qualifying as a short for the Oscars®?
Well there’s two ways you can go about it. One is to win one of the Academy-affiliated festivals. As it happens both Bilbao and Foyle are affiliated. Winning at either of those would have qualified The Door to be on the shortlist, which I think is about 70 films. And from there the Academy select the 10 and then they select the 5. But you can also screen it in LA for a couple of days in some cinema and I think that will qualify the film.
So the nomination really opened up the American audience for you?
Well, I’ve watched this film now kind of in different parts of the world with people who speak different languages. I watched it in Macedonia, in this tiny little town called Strumica. The people there couldn’t speak English or Russian – they couldn’t understand the dialogue or the subtitles. But the feedback afterwards was incredible. It also won Best Director at the Grand D’Or festival in Poland, which I would say is steeped in the European tradition of cinema. So then to be able to go to America, LA, the home of Hollywood, and get the feedback we got there was amazing. Perhaps it’s the lack of dialogue that makes it universal.
The full article is printed in Film Ireland 133.