By CB Smith-Dahl
This week, the Academy of Motion Pictures and Sciences announced "The Waiting Room" as one of 15 documentary features on the Oscar shortlist.**
This announcement came just after the film was nominated for Best Documentary by the Independent Spirit Awards.
"The Waiting Room" tells stories captured in the emergency room at Highland Hospital by Oakland filmmakers Peter Nicks and Linda Davis. The winner of multiple film festival awards, the movie was released in theaters earlier this fall.
Film Director/Producer Nicks is still trying to wrap his head around it all.
"It's all a blur," he said. "It all started coming in all at once - emails text messages, Facebook posts. It is the culmination of everything that we've been working towards. A mass outpouring of support and love from everybody that knows how hard it's been to get to this place."
Open'Hood, the production company that Nicks and Davis run, has been working to keep pace with all of the attention. Even when the film had a brief run at the Grand Lake Theater earlier this year, Nicks said the theater staff "were telling us by how much they were surprised by how well the film did - our numbers were like Hollywood box office blockbusters."
At the same time, the acclaim is a validation for not just the filmmakers, but Oakland itself.
"Oakland matters. Not only is there a need to tell our stories in a three-dimensional way but there's an audience," Nicks said. "There's a lot of pride. Oakland is experiencing all kinds of challenges. But is also reflective of the changing America that came to the forefront in the last election."
Nicks describes this commitment to local stories, told by local residents as something that he talks about often - both with his staff and filmmaker friends like Ryan Coogler, who just finished shooting a narrative feature about Oscar Grant called "Fruitvale."
"We're looking at another film set in Oakland, about Oakland, that breaks down preconceived notions," Nicks said. " Life in Oakland from the perspective of people that are living it, sort of like the way "The Wire" does different aspects of life in Baltimore."
"The Waiting Room" re-opens for a limited run at the Grand Lake Theater this weekend.
**While being on the short list doesn't guarantee a documentary will win an Academy Award or even be an official nominee; it's a crucial and controversial first step. This is also the first year where films can still qualify for nominations even if they are not on the short list.