A day of tragedy, triumph

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A filmmaker behind "Recycled Life," recognized in the documentary short subject category, had a bittersweet reaction to her Oscar nomination.

That's because the film depicts the heroic efforts of Hanley Denning, who died Thursday at age 36 in a traffic crash in Guatemala.

"Recycled" shows how Denning built a school and provided food for kids living in a Guatemala City garbage dump, and docu co-director Leslie Iwerks said Tuesday that she hoped the nomination will help further "Hanley's legacy of work on behalf of the poor and suffering."

Iwerks called Denning's death "really tragic as Hanley was such an amazing person with so much energy and spirit."

Iwerks and co-director Mike Glad — her partner on several projects since meeting via his interest in animation art — discovered Denning's work in Guatemala while in the country researching a still-incomplete project on the Mayans. They immediately recognized the dramatic situation as one ripe for film depiction, she recalled.

To receive the Academy's recognition of their work also is personally poignant for Iwerks. She is the daughter of Hollywood tech pioneer and honorary Oscar recipient Don Iwerks and the granddaughter of Ub Iwerks, who first drew Mickey Mouse.

"It's truly an honor, because in my family I have looked up to my father and grandfather for so many years," she said. "I'm just following my passion for telling stories that I really believe in. This is the first project that's been entirely my own vision, (and) it would be nice if it led to others. It's hard to say if that will happen, but I am being repped by the William Morris Agency and am developing other projects that I want to do. But meantime this is really nice, to receive some recognition for a project that we poured our heart and soul into."
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