A documentary about book banning in Florida entitled The ABCs of Book Banning has been nominated for an Oscar in the Short Documentary category. The film features children and adults discussing the banning of books related to LGBT and race issues in Florida.
Its director is 80-something Sheila Nevins who oversaw documentary programming at HBO for 40 years. She said she was galvanised into action after she stumbled on a video of centenarian Grace Linn protesting book banning at Martin County School Board. Nevins told National Public Radios Scott Simon: My husband, Robert Nichol, was killed in action in World War II, defending our democracy, constitution and freedoms. One of the freedoms that the Nazis crushed was the freedom to read the books that they banned.
And I thought, holy [expletive], this woman is out there doing something, and I’m doing nothing. And I know I’m only in my 80s, for heaven’s sake. And here’s this woman fighting for young people to be able to read the books that she read and I read and possibly you read, Scott, that in many ways change our lives and make us know about the world we live in. And I thought I’ve got to grab her. I’ve got to get her. And I’ve got to get some of these kids who’ve lost the books or who have been deprived of the books to read them and to see how they feel about what they’re missing.
Books mentioned in the film include respected classics such as Slaughterhouse-Five, The Handmaids Tale and The Kite-Runner. NPR asked why Nevins decided to speak to the children rather than the parents who are supporting the banning.
I felt the children were the victims here, Nevins says, even though adult books were somehow pulled off shelves as well. I felt it was in the beginning that you needed the right and the freedom to learn about the world you were going to be growing up in. And you really didn’t have free choice if you didn’t have the economic ability or access to pick any book you wanted, but you relied on your school library to get your book, and it wasn’t in it. The shelves were empty. The books were, you know, held in abeyance until they were approved or banned completely. So I wanted to go to those who reached for the book and couldn’t get it.
The 96th Oscars will be announced in Los Angeles on 10 March.