Award nomination for acclaimed Teesside producer’s documentary

Film producer and Teesside University academic Samm Haillay’s most recent documentary has been nominated for a major independent film award.

Island of the Hungry Ghosts has been nominated for Best Documentary at the 35th Spirit Awards, a major milestone within the American independent film circuit.

Samm was one of the producers of Island of the Hungry Ghosts, which takes place on the remote and extraordinary Christmas Island, which is home to few human inhabitants.

The film follows trauma therapist Poh Lin, whose clients are the island’s asylum seekers detained within the maximum security facility buried deep within the jungle. Poetically juxtaposed against this is the migration of the millions of red crabs which the island is also home to, as well as the annual rituals carried out by local Chinese migrants.

Island of the Hungry Ghosts has already won a raft of international film awards, among them being the coveted Best Documentary award at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York in 2018.

The Spirit Awards, voted for exclusively by Film Independent members, is a significant milestone for major independent films on their way to Golden Globe and Oscar nominations. The 2020 Spirit Awards will take place in Santa Monica on February 8.

Island of the Hungry Ghosts was directed by Gabrielle Brady, who also produced the film alongside producers Samm Haillay, Gizem Acarla, Alex Kelly and Alexander Wadouh.

Samm, who successfully combines a career as a film producer with lecturing, said: “Being nominated for such a global award is always an amazing feeling. The Spirit Awards are the independent version of being nominated for an Oscar.”

He added: “It’s important that academics involved in teaching media and production have and are very much involved in the film industry. It helps to provide our students with a sense of connection and see the possibilities of a film career. Students can see how hard work pays off and hopefully this will help to be inspirational to them.”

The film is currently available to watch on BFI Player here.

Find out more about studying media and communications at Teesside University.