Sarah Kernochan gets Oscar nod

What is the film about?
March 1, 2002

What is the film about?

The reductive name for him [Thoth] is a street performer. Dressed only in a gold loin cloth, he sings in an unknown language while playing the violin beautifully and keeping rhythm with his feet. It is a public act of self healing. He was suicidal for most of his life. When he decided to stop shutting down, he discovered he had all these talents and that he need not be ashamed of any racial ingredient in his makeup. At one time or another, he had been ashamed of being black, of being white, of being Jewish, all the stuff that is in his makeup. He says he’s asking forgiveness from his ancestors and when he opens up, they sing and dance through him.

Where did Thoth screen to qualify for an Oscar nomination?

For one week, at Cinema Village Theatre in New York. I was surprised to see we actually made money. People actually did come. Really though, the best outlet for shorts is cable, and this just got bought by HBO.

Was that after the nomination or had HBO shown interest before?

I think it was the nomination.

Is the film’s theatrical outlook rosier with a nod from Oscar?

Now that I have the nomination, I’ll let the offers come to me. My dream was to get it on HBO, because I want as many people as possible to see what [Thoth] does, especially on a channel with a large black demographic. This isn’t a film just for white film buffs, it’s a film for all races.

How much did the film cost?

The film cost about US$100,000, most of which was my own, financed by my screen writing fees. I will probably get 25% back from the HBO deal.

Thoth is 40 minutes long. Do you consider it a short film?

Yes. This is a short because that is how the material presented itself. There didn’t seem to be enough material to sustain a feature. The second reason was because I always had in mind making a run for an [Oscar] nomination. I happen to know the short category is wide open, whereas in the feature category you’re going to lose to the Holocaust films every time.

Would you introduce yourself as a short film maker?

No, I’m actually pretty tall.

Have any designers called to dress you?

I actually went over to Milan (laughs). Romeo Gigli will be dressing me.

About The Author
Andrew Tracy joined Realscreen as associate editor in 2021, following 17 years as managing editor of the award-winning international film magazine Cinema Scope. From 2010 to 2020 he also held the position of senior editor at the Toronto International Film Festival, where he oversaw the flagship publication for the organization’s year-round Cinematheque programming and edited its first original monograph in a decade, Steve Gravestock’s A History of Icelandic Film. He was a scriptwriter and consultant on the first season of the Vice TV series The Vice Guide to Film, and his writing and reporting have been featured in such outlets as Cinema Scope, Reverse Shot, Sight & Sound, Cineaste, Film Comment, MUBI Notebook, POV, and Montage.