TWO Cheshire teenagers have been thrust firmly into the global cinematic spotlight – after a film they both had parts in was shortlisted for a Hollywood Oscar.

The pair, Sam Rees, 17, from Knutsford and Annie Cusselle, 17, from Holmes Chapel, played brother and sister in the film short, The Silent Child, which highlights the struggles of a deaf child to make sense of a world that is too busy to communicate with her.

The film has been shortlisted in the Best Live Action Short category.

Sam, who plays Seb, and Annie, who plays Pip, are both members of the Knutsford based Actor Tribe performance group, run by Coronation Street’s Lee Boardman and Jennifer James.

In the film they are the elder siblings of Libby (Maisie Sly), who is deaf in real life, and plays a four-year-old child born into a middle class family.

Her deafness results in her living only on the edge of her parents’ attention, Sue and Paul, played by Rachel Fielding and Philip York.

Libby’s isolation and stereotyping is completed by the archaic attitude displayed by grandmother Nancy, played by Anna Barry.

Sam, who is in his final year of sixth form at Knutsford Academy said: “I took time off last Monday afternoon to watch the final nominations to the Oscars being read out live on TV and when I heard our name I did a little victory jig on my own, before my dad called to congratulate me, while my mum was not really screaming at the news – it was closer to a high pitched sound of delight.

“I feel like the whole cast has contributed in getting The Silent Child onto the shortlist and it’s just great and an amazing thing to put onto my CV.”

The film has already been winning accolades worldwide after lifting awards at The Rhode Island Film Festival and winning best ensemble award at the Global Lift Off Festival Awards last month in London.

The film has also won acclaim from critics for its tackling of what is seen as an important issue.

In the story, a ray of hope comes along in the form of specialised social worker Joanne, played by Rachel Shenton, who also wrote the screenplay.

It is Joanne who is able to focus in on Libby’s isolated and lonely existence and teaches the child how to communicate by using sign language.

Rachel, who has had roles in the soap Hollyoaks, came up with the script after she was inspired by personal experience to learn sign language.

Her father Geoff became deaf and she has since become a champion of raising awareness of deafness.

Her fiancee Chris Overton directed the film, which was partially crowdfunded and was released by Slick Films.

Sam said the since the Academy Award shortlisting, his head of performance arts at Knutsford Academy Helen Mayne, has been deferring to his ideas while working on his final year drama piece.

He said: “Miss Mayne keeps saying to our group ‘we had better go with Sam’s idea as he is the Oscar nominated actor’.”

Helen added: “Sam has always been totally committed to all aspects of his development as a performer.

“What an achievement, to be involved in an Oscar nominated film at the start of what I am sure will be a very successful career.

“We are delighted for Sam, and all of the creative and production team who worked on The Silent Child and wish them every success at the award ceremony on March 4.”

Annie, who attends The Grange, in Hartford, lives in Holmes Chapel, was cast in an audition alongside Sam for the film.

‘My mum was not really screaming at the Oscars news – it was closer to a high pitched sound of delight’

Sam Rees

She said: “We were both sent for the audition and at the time I didn’t know I would be playing Sam’s sister. It was shot in a big house in Market Drayton over four days.

“Chris sent me and Sam text messages letting us know that we were nominated and it was a massive shock for it to be nominated on a global scale and none of us thought that such a small scale film would take off like it has.”

Annie and Sam are now hoping against hope that their success can be celebrated on the red carpet in Hollywood.

Annie added: “That would be absolutely incredible and we are keeping our fingers crossed.”

The film, which is second favourite with the bookies, is up against four films including the favourite to win, DeKalb Elementary, The Eleven O’Clock, My Nephew Emmett, and Watu Wote/All of Us.