Kartemquin's 'Edith + Eddie' front-runner for Oscar in Best Documentary Short category

CHICAGO (WLS) -- "Edith + Eddie," a front-runner to win an Oscar for best short documentary, is one of two nominations for Chicago's Kartemquin film company.

Michigan director Laura Checkoway was inspired to tell the story of the elderly, inter-racial couple after reading a news story. The story even sparked Cher to play a part in getting the film made.

When the Oscar winners are announced on Sunday, Checkoway - a young poet from Ann Arbor and daughter of a community organizer -- hopes to win a statue for her heartbreaking story of elder abuse.

"Just hearing people speak about it with me in that sentence it's like I'm still pinching myself a bit," Checkoway said.

Edith and Eddie met in their mid-90s, fell in love and got married. There was a bitter family dispute over Edith's home, and she had mild dementia.

The couple had an agonizing fight with a court-ordered guardian, who sent Edith out of state. The film shows Eddie as he appears to die of a broken heart.

"This is such an intimate portrait with this one couple and then to recognize this is happening to elders all over within families who are experiencing a lot of these issues and isolation," Checkoway said.

Cher saw the news coverage, and offered funds to keep the couple in their home. She also became an executive producer on the film.

"She saw their story and her heart was called to want to help them because she's in a position to do that," Checkoway said of Cher.

Checkoway was at the Oscar luncheon, gearing up for the main event.

"It's blowing my mind, especially with the way that this film was made with such a small team of devoted people, incredibly bare bones. It means so much for it to be received in this light," she said.

The director knows the "stars" of her film will be with her in spirit on Oscar night.

"We feel like Edith and Eddie are still here in spirit with us and the film is a testament to them and what they went through," Checkoway said.

Steve James' "Abacus: Small Enough to Jail" is the other Kartemquin Films nominee.
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