Elinor Burkett says she and fellow Best Documentary Short winner still aren't speaking
Who knew short documentaries could pack in so much drama?
Early in Sunday night's Academy Awards telecast, producer-director Roger Ross Williams came onstage to accept the Best Short Documentary Oscar for "Music by Prudence," a film about disabled musicians at a school in Zimbabwe. Seconds into it, his speech was cut short by Elinor Burkett -- the film's co-producer, also named as a winner -- who appeared out of nowhere and took over the microphone.
What was that all about?
"He was sprinting!" Burkett told our colleague Marissa Newhall on Monday. "Most people wait for each other, go up together, pretend they like each other. But I'm still in my seat, and he's up there talking!"
Not surprisingly, there's bad blood between the filmmakers. Burkett, a former journalist and author who splits her time between Zimbabwe and the Catskills, discovered the film's subjects. Williams got involved, artistic visions diverged, a lawsuit was filed, and things were settled out of court.
Then came the nomination. Both producers said they were under the impression the Motion Picture Academy would allow only one person to make a speech, and they didn't talk beforehand. The tension boiled into an awkward showstopper, a la Kanye West at September's MTV Video Music Awards.
Attempts to reach Williams on Monday were unsuccessful, but he posted his cut-off acceptance speech on his movie's Web site. He would have addressed Prudence Mabhena, a key subject of the film who was in the audience, saying: "We don't always recognize the gifts we get, and Prudence, I'm so very happy to be a part of recognizing you tonight." And he would have thanked Burkett.
Burkett did get her statuette ("I'm carrying it around in a plastic bag, because I have no other way to carry it"), but didn't bury the hatchet: "After you get off the stage there's an assembly line where we're photographed and interviewed together, and Roger would not speak to me," Burkett says. "That's how bad it was."
The Reliable Source
March 9, 2010; 1:04 AM ET
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