Laura Checkoway’s Edith+Eddie is nominated for her short documentary about Edith Hill, an African-American woman who married Eddie Harrison in 2014. The couple were living in Edith’s home but were forced by the courts to be separated after ruling that Edith should be moved to live with her other daughter in Florida. It’s a love story, it’s a story about race and prejudice, but as Checkoway says, “it shines light on elder rights.” I had a quick catch up with Checkoway as Oscar voting comes to an end to chat about Edith+Eddie.
How did you first come across the story of Edith + Eddie?
A friend texted me a photo of the couple that was circulating online after they’d gotten married at ages 95 and 96.
What made you decide to tell this as a short story?
I wanted to know more about them and what it would be like to fall in love at that time in your life.
What was your first reaction when you met them? What did you tell them about your idea?
It was a delight to spend time with the couple and get to know them. They had been featured in local news coverage so they were comfortable and open with sharing their story.
Talk about the process of filming and getting to know Edith? What was that like and what was she like?
Edith was proud to be with Eddie and it was sweet to see her excitedly introduce her new husband to everyone. She was a prayerful woman. She often sang spirituals to Eddie over meals and recited poetry.
You spent some time with Edith. how much time did you spend and what did you learn?
We filmed over two and a half months with Edith and Eddie. We saw the couple enjoying their time together and going to church and living an active life. Meanwhile, there was a disagreement in Edith’s family about what was best for her. Her rights were taken away. I’m not sure any of us could have imagined what was to come. And come to find out, what happens to Edith is happening to elders all over.
What does the Oscar nomination mean to you in terms of the film and highlighting the story?
It means so much because it helps shine a really bright light on elder rights. I just came from an incredibly powerful screening this evening at USC’s School of Gerontology where a panel of experts discussed the issues in the film with a focus on legal guardianship. Professor Kate Wilbur spoke so beautifully about the message in the film when she said “Not every love story ends with ‘and they lived happily ever after’ but we were all desperately wishing that this one would. I hope Edith and Eddie and the film’s legacy is that if will enlighten and educate our aging society that the freedom to love and be with the person you love is important at any age.”
Edith + Eddie is now available to view on topic.com