Professor emerita Kristine Samuelson earns Oscar nomination

Oscar nominees
John Haptas and Kristine Samuelson

KRISTINE SAMUELSON, the Edward Clark Crossett Emerita Professor of Humanistic Studies, and Stanford alumnus JOHN HAPTAS have earned an Oscar nomination for best documentary short for their film Life Overtakes Me.

The film, which premiered at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival and is now streaming on Netflix, examines a mysterious illness, Resignation Syndrome, that causes traumatized refugee children in Sweden to retreat into a coma-like state. This Oscar nomination is Haptas’ first and Samuelson’s second. Her first was in 1975 for the documentary short Arthur and Lillie.

“We are thrilled that the Academy has nominated Life Overtakes Me in the Documentary Short subject category,” the filmmakers said. “We know that this honor will bring further attention to children whose lives are scarred by trauma. We believe that Resignation Syndrome is just one manifestation of the impact of fear and anxiety on refugees, including children held in detention on our own borders.”

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Oscar award ceremony is on Feb. 9.

In a December 2019 interview, Haptas told Deadline that he and Samuelson financed the initial stage of shooting by renting out their house, and ultimately spent about a hundred days in Sweden over the course of a year. As a two-person team handling the producing, directing, camera and sound, they became close to the families they followed, as well as the doctors who volunteered to make home visits to assist the families.

“The children remain in this state of withdrawal for months and sometimes years, usually not recovering until the family has a secure future,” said Samuelson. “It is almost unimaginable that we live in a world where this can occur.”