A Guardian-commissioned documentary about a young man dealing with questions of race and family identity is up for an Oscar in a first for the newsbrand.
Black Sheep is one of five films nominated in the Documentary Short category, it was revealed today, with the winner set to be announced on 24 February at a ceremony in Los Angeles.
The film is directed by Ed Perkins and produced by Simon Chinn and Jonathan Chinn with the Guardian’s Charlie Phillips (its head of documentaries) and Lindsay Poulton executive producing.
Black Sheep follows the true story of Cornelius Walker whose mother moved him and his family from London to Essex after the murder of ten-year-old Damilola Taylor. Walker lived near Taylor, was the same age and also black.
“Cornelius suddenly found himself living on a white estate run by racists,” the Guardian description of the film says.
“But rather than fight them, Cornelius decided to become more like the people who hated him. They became his family and kept him safe. And in return, Cornelius became submerged in a culture of violence and hatred.
“But as the violence and racism against other black people continued, Cornelius struggled to marry his real identity with the one he had acquired.”
The 25-minute film is free to watch on the Guardian’s website (see link below) and has already picked up a number of film festival awards.
Phillips said: “We’re proud that this unique film has been recognised by the Academy and that Cornelius’ story will spread even further with this nomination.
“Thanks to his bravery in speaking with such candour, combined with Ed Perkins’ beautiful filmmaking, this film will resonate with anyone who’s struggled with their identity as a teenager, and it says something profound and relevant about race in today’s world”.
Guardian editor-in-chief Katharine Viner added: “It’s wonderful to see such an important and personal story resonate with so many people and I’m delighted that the Guardian helped to tell it.”
Perkins said: “We cannot explain how much it means to us all that this film is reaching audiences all over the world and that people are empathising and resonating with Cornelius’ extraordinary journey.
“I would like to thank the incredible teams at Lightbox and the Guardian for their immeasurable support throughout the process of bringing this story to the screen. It has been a wonderful collaboration. And most of all I’d like to thank Cornelius.
“As documentary filmmakers we are nothing without extraordinary, brave people like Cornelius who are willing to sit in front of our cameras and bear their souls.
“Cornelius is a very special human being and I feel immensely fortunate to have been able – in some small way – to help him share his complex and important story with others.”
Picture: Black Sheep/Guardian/Screenshot