North Georgians have a reason to follow the Oscar race this year, and it isn't to see what Angelina is wearing.
A short film called "Ana's Playground" has been short-listed for an Academy Award nomination, meaning it has been chosen as one of the 10 best short films released in 2010 and is eligible for an Oscar nomination.
This matters to us not only because it's a great film with an important message, but because a member of our community contributed significant work to the production.
Elisa Carlson is resident director of the Gainesville Theatre Alliance, an associate professor at Gainesville State College, and an adjunct professor at Brenau University. She is also a dialect and voice coach. Carlson created a language for "Ana's Playground" and coached the child actors who appear in the film.
"Ana's Playground" is about three children living in a war-torn city who are simply trying to play a game of soccer. It is the only pastime available to them and the soccer ball is their prize possession.
When the ball is kicked over a fence that marks off a restricted area, the three friends draw straws to see who will go into this dangerous part of their neighborhood to retrieve the ball. Ana draws the short straw, and the film becomes a cat and mouse game between Ana and a sniper positioned several floors above the area.
The film is fictional but makes a powerful statement about the effects of war on real children. According to the film's website, 2,000 children are killed or injured in war every day and more than 300,000 children are fighting in active combat.
Because these tragedies happen all over the world, the filmmakers wanted the setting to be ambiguous so the message couldn't be reduced to a particular conflict or culture. Which is where Carlson came in.
She explains that she "took the words of the script and made up a language for the actors to use to convey them so that they could not be pegged as being from any one particular place."
The trick was to create a language that didn't sound too much like any existing language, while making it seem natural to the actors and realistic to the audience.
To achieve this, Carlson worked multiple sessions with the director and the child actors, collaborating to develop the language. While she points out that the dialogue isn't the most important aspect of the film, the ambiguity of the language is crucial to its mission.
"Ana's Playground" is a nonprofit film. Everyone either donated their time or worked for very little because they believed so strongly in the message. That is, obviously, remarkable in itself.
The film has played festivals around the world and earned numerous awards. Garnering an Oscar nomination would be simply the most high profile honor in a string of successes which the cast and crew, including Carlson, hope will raise awareness to the devastating impact of war on children.