Professor's Oscar Bid

January 31, 2008

A documentary film about Duke literature professor Ariel Dorfman's exile from Chile has made the "short list" for Oscar nominees in the Best Documentary Picture category. A Promise to the Dead: The Exile Journey of Ariel Dorfman is among fifteen films the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences is considering for the five official nominee spots in the Oscars' feature-length documentary category. The five will be announced, along with other Oscar nominees, on January 22.

The documentary, directed by Peter Raymont, is based on Dorfman's memoir, Heading South, Looking North. Dorfman, whose story was the focus of a Duke Magazine feature in September-October 2005, was raised in Chile. In the early 1970s, he was a rising star in the University of Chile's literature department. He accepted the post of media adviser to the chief of staff for President Salvador Allende not long before the Allende government was overthrown by Augusto Pinochet. Dorfman was forced to flee the country and has dedicated much of his life to telling Chile's story.

The film was an official selection at the Toronto International Film Festival in September and was screened at the International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam in the Netherlands in November. Its competition for the Oscar includes several Iraq war documentaries, as well as Michael Moore's Sicko, about universal health care.