We’ve done a lot of Oscar talk this week, but one story we haven’t covered was that “Kanye moment” when Music by Prudence producer Elinor Burkett interrupted Short Film winner Roger Ross Williams’ Oscar acceptance speech. Williams directed and produced the film, about a disabled Zimbabwean musician, but barely got any words out before he was interrupted by Elinor Burkett, another producer of the film. Pop the hood for the story behind what happened.
In a post-speech interview with Salon Burkett explained the pair had a disagreement over the “direction of the film” and that she was late to the podium because Williams’ mother used a cane to keep her from the stage.
BURKETT: What happened was [Williams] and I had a bad difference over the direction of the film that resulted in a lawsuit that has settled amicably out of court. But there have been all these events around the Oscars, and I wasn’t invited to any of them. And he’s not speaking to me. So we weren’t even able to discuss ahead of the time who would be the one person allowed to speak if we won. And then, as I’m sure you saw, when we won, he raced up there to accept the award. And his mother took her cane and blocked me. So I couldn’t get up there very fast.
BURKETT: The movie was my idea. I live in Zimbabwe. Roger had never even heard of Zimbabwe before I told him about this. And you know, I felt my role in this has been denigrated again and again, and it wasn’t going to happen this time.
Williams disagreed with Burkett’s version of events:
WILLIAMS: Only one person is allowed to accept the award. I was the director, and she was removed from the project nearly a year ago, but she was able to still qualify as a producer on the project, and be an official nominee. But she was very angry — she actually removed herself from the project – because she wanted more creative control.
WILLIAMS: I just expected her to stand there. I had a speech prepared.
She claims she found the movie’s story, that she brought it to you.
WILLIAMS: No, not at all. The truth is that she saw the band perform [in Zimbabwe], and told me about that, and then I opened up a dialogue with the [King George VI School & Centre for Children with Physical Disabilities] school and went on my own – which you would’ve heard about in my speech — and spent $6,000 going to Africa shooting myself. And when people expressed interest in the film, I asked her to come on board. And then I regretted that decision. Then she sued.
Did your mother try and block her with her cane?
WILLIAMS: My mother got up to hug me. And my mother is 87 years old. She was excited.
What are people saying about it?
They’re saying it looked like she pulled a Kanye.
WILLIAMS: She did! She pulled a Kanye. And it’s a shame, because this is such positive, happy film.
So who do you believe???? Was Burkett wrong, or is Williams lying? And is there some swirl lovin’ gone wrong at the bottom of this???