Mainer in film up for Oscar


PORTLAND (AP) – A documentary that features a Maine woman who founded an organization that helps impoverished children in Guatemala was nominated for an Oscar less than a week after she was killed in a car crash in the Central American nation.

Hanley Denning, 36, of Yarmouth, founded the nonprofit Safe Passage organization, which helps children who live in the slums of Guatemala City. About 1,000 people turned out for her funeral Tuesday at Yarmouth High School.

“She changed the world and she changed us,” said the Rev. Bill Gregory of Yarmouth, a retired United Church of Christ minister who officiated at the service. “We have been to Safe Passage and seen what love can do.”

Denning was interviewed several times for the 38-minute film “Recycled Life,” one of five films nominated Tuesday for an Academy Award in the short subject category. The film is about people who subsist at the Guatemala City dump.

The film was shot over four years and completed last year, said Leslie Iwerks, the film’s director. Denning’s passion for her work translated well in the film and helped the audience identify with the people she was helping, she said.

“Through her eyes you get a sense of the place,” Iwerks said.

The film ends with the Web site address for Safe Passage. The film’s makers are encouraging people to donate to the organization.

The Academy Awards will be presented Feb. 25 in Los Angeles.

Denning founded Safe Passage in 1999 to help children who are so poor that they subsist by scavenging through the dump.

Denning, who graduated from Bowdoin College in 1992, started the program with about 40 children with money she got from selling her computer and car. Safe Passage now helps about 500 children and has annual budget of $1.6 million.

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Information from: Portland Press Herald,

AP-ES-01-24-07 1022EST