Ojai filmmakers get Oscar nod
By Kelly Feser Eells
Critically acclaimed filmmakers Bobby Houston
and Robert Hudson met at Local Hero Books, and now the two are
local heroes themselves.
Their latest documentary, "Mighty Times: The Legacy of Rosa
Parks," was nominated Tuesday for an Academy Award. Distributed
by Teaching Tolerance, a project of the Southern Poverty Law
Center, "Mighty Times" is one of four films contending
for best documentary short subject this year.
"This is the day Ojai got nominated for an Oscar,"
said Hudson, pointing out that the film was shot entirely "on
location" - Grand Avenue, Reeves Road, Ojai-Santa Paula
Road, and downtown Ojai Avenue. Using vintage film stock, vintage
cameras, and "the magic of the town of Ojai," the filmmakers
recreate the famous Montgomery, Ala., bus boycott and, more importantly,
the revolution it sparked.
"I would love to say Bob and I went to Hollywood,"
Hudson jokes, "to get this picture made. But we depended
on the people of Ojai (many of whom were directly involved in
the production) and the community at large. Everyone was genuinely
interested in the project; there's none of that 'me-me-me' attitude"
so prevalent in the film industry.
Houston's and Hollywood's relationship predates his Tell the
Truth Pictures relationship by some 20 years. An independent
feature director (including "Caged Fear" and "Trust
Me"), screenwriter and "actor for about a minute,"
Houston voluntarily retired from film work in 1995, citing a
lack of enthusiasm. He focused his creative energies on the bookstore,
Local Hero, he'd founded and, until late last year, owned.
But his enthusiasm for filmmaking was rekindled in less than
a year. "Rob came in for a cup of coffee," Houston
laughs, "and I basically wormed my way onto this race"
he was talking about.
The "race" Hudson was entering was 1997's 2,250-mile
TransPacific yacht race from Los Angeles to Hawaii; he and a
crew of HIV-positive men would be competing against 39 other
boats aboard the aptly named "Survivor."
Houston smilingly recalls how he had to convince "one of
the guys" to let him in on the action, which resulted in
the award-winning documentary "Rock the Boat."
First released under the title, "The Human Race," the
feature-length film also attracted the attention of the Academy.
"We were on a short list" for an award, explains Houston,
"in the top eight."
Are the filmmakers planning on attending this year's Academy
"Does Rain's sell tuxes?" Hudson quips. "This
is a big year, the 75th anniversary. And the greatest thing,"
he adds, "is that Rosa Parks herself is coming (to the March
23 show.) She's 90 years old now!"
But Houston and Hudson are equally excited about their current
project, a five-picture series on the civil rights movement,
commissioned by HBO. Telling the truth in pictures, they've discovered,
is its own reward.
The Ojai Valley News
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THE TRUTH filmmakers Bobby Houston, left, and Robert Hudson.