Washington Evening Journal

Fairfield Ledger   Mt. Pleasant News
Neighbors Growing Together | Sep 25, 2018

‘Saving Brinton’ eligible for Oscar

Sep 04, 2018
Photo by: file photo Washington Chamber of Commerce Ambassador Genie Davis, left, congratulates local historian Mike Zahs during the Washington premiere of  the documentary “Saving Brinton,” which chronicled his struggle to bring attention to found films of Frank Brinton. “Saving Brinton” is eligible for an Oscar in the catagory of best documentary films.

By David Hotle, The JOURNAL


While Mike Zahs, local historian and custodian of the Brinton films, says the documentary made about his promotion of the films is a long shot to win an Oscar, it is now eligible to be considered for nomination.

While the chances are not great that the film will walk away with the gold statue for best documentary, as other documentary films in the running showcase individuals such as Fred Rogers (Mister Roger) and Maya Angelou, Zahs still is happy that the possibility of going to the red carpet is there. He is hopeful the 90-minute documentary made locally on his discovery of the 100-year-old Frank Brinton films in a local basement about 25 years ago will be considered. The film boasts the story of Brinton, the story of Zahs and the story of Washington County.

“I don’t think any other Iowa film has ever gone this far,” he said.

The Academy Awards, known as the Oscars, are given by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to recognize cinematic achievements.

Zahs explained a documentary film has a lot of qualifications it needs to meet before it can be considered for nomination — more than fictional movies. He said the film has to play theatrically for at least a week in both New York and Los Angeles. “Saving Brinton” premiered publicly in on Sept. 17, 2017, in the State Theatre in Washington, but it is only after the two theatrical runs that it is considered for an Oscar.

Among the challenges is the meager budget for the promotion of the film. Zahs explained some movies have millions to promote the films, while “Saving Brinton” does not. He said the documentary had great reviews, He said there was a wonderful review in the New York Times and garnered a full-page write-up in the London Guardian.

With the film being eligible for consideration, people who vote in the Academy Awards can view the film and determine if it should receive an Oscar. Zahs says there is traditionally a long list (about 20) and a short list (about 10) of movies that are considered for Oscars. He said the Hollywood Press recently listed its picks for the top movies, and “Saving Brinton” was in the list.

“The filmmakers are working to get a screening of the film for Academy members in New York and Los Angeles,” Zahs said. “They haven’t been set up for sure. The Academy voters have to see the film - that is a big thing.”

Zahs hopes the film at least makes the short list for the Oscar, feeling it would greatly help the filmmakers’ career.

The story had actually begun over 100 years ago when Washington residents Frank and Indiana Brinton traveled to local theaters, sharing the new invention of film with the public. Several of the films were discovered in 1981 in the basement of Indiana Brinton’s executor and were given to Zahs. The documentary chronicles Zahs’ quest to preserve the films and to give them a modern audience. Produced by Iowa City filmmakers Tommy Haines, John Richard and Andrew Sherburne, the film premiered at the American Film Institute’s prestigious AFI Docs festival in Washington, D.C., in June.

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