Durham native and Hillside High grad nominated for an Oscar

Sunday, March 04, 2018 10:20PM
Durham native and Hillside High grad Kevin Wilson Jr. has been nominated for an Oscar.

And the Oscar goes to... The Silent Child not "My Nephew Emmett."

Back in the spring of 2007, Kevin Wilson Jr. was graduating from Durham's Hillside High School - armed with some raw talent and a big dream.

Now, 11 years later, he's a New York University film student who just got invited to the biggest award show in Hollywood.

"It's extremely humbling; extremely emotional," Wilson described via a Facetime interview with ABC11 after wrapping up a day of classes at NYU's prestigious graduate film program.

He's in the midst of a whirlwind winter - with his 20-minute short film, "My Nephew Emmett" on a roll.

The movie dramatizes the real-life murder of Emmett Till, a 14-year African-American boy beaten and lynched in 1955 Mississippi - after being accused of whistling at a white woman.

The film has been racking up awards at film festivals. But, Tuesday morning, the life of Kevin Wilson, born and raised in north Durham, changed forever.

Wilson's work was nominated as one of five finalists for best live action short films.

"Oh man, I still get chills," Wilson said describing his feeling since hearing his film's name announced as an Oscar nominee.

"It was a moment that I'll never forget. You know you only get nominated for an Oscar for the first time once," he said. "And that moment is one I'll remember for the rest of my life."

Wilson's love for the arts was born inside Hillside High's vaunted theater program. He cut his teeth in the drama department under the school's long-time instructor Wendell Tabb.

"I do give a lot of credit to Mr. Tabb for his commitment to the community, for his commitment to the arts," Wilson said.

And when the 28-year old filmmaker needed to fill the role of Emmett Till, he trusted the recommendation of Mr. Tabb - hiring 18-year old actor Joshua Wright, a junior at Durham's Voyager Academy.

"It was gratifying to be able to work with someone from my hometown," Wilson said about Wright. "To be able to go back and grab someone from Durham, North Carolina, meant the world to me because I saw myself in this young man."

Wilson wrote, produced and directed "My Nephew Emmett".

The 90th annual Academy Awards airs on ABC11 on March 4. Wilson said he'll be walking the red carpet with his wife, who he met at Hillside, and his mother, who still lives in the house he grew up in back in north Durham.
(Copyright ©2018 WTVD-TV. All Rights Reserved.)