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Meet the Woman Who Kanye'd the Oscars

Elinor-burkett-oscars There was precisely one moment of genuine drama during last night's Oscars -- and I know, because I watched the whole thing, down to the bitter overlong end, going down with the ship much like Avatar's hope of avoiding the James Cameron backlash -- and that was during the acceptance speech for (of all things) Best Documentary Short Film winner Music by Prudence. It was weird! And awkward! And awesome!

So the director (Roger Ross Williams) gets up there and starts oh-my-godding and launching into his speech, when this woman shows up and takes over and talks and talks, while everybody around them and in the audiences is all, uhhhh? What just happened? Was that supposed to happen?

The woman is Elinor Burkett, and Salon talked to them this morning and got the whole story. It's a feud!

Her side: Burkett is a journalist from Zimbabwe, and came up with the original idea for the film. 

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.

The movie was supposed to be about the entire band, Liyana. And the [band members] were very clear they did not want to participate if it ended up being just about one person. The director and HBO decided to focus solely on Prudence . . .

The final product, it's not that it's bad. It's not what I envisioned when I came up with this project. And it's not what we promised the boys in the band. It's just not what we wanted it to be.

This change in direction caused a rift and a lawsuit, which was settled out of court. According to the director, the settlement essentially ended her affiliation with the film, though she retained a producer credit, despite more or less disowning the project and finished film.

(Also, "never heard of Zimbabwe before I told him..."? What? That smacks of either bullshit or a really bad choice of director for YOUR FILM ABOUT ZIMBABWE, lady.)

Roger's side of the split:

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.

281x211 As for the actual event last night, the video suggest that they were essentially racing to the stage. He got there first, she arrived a minute later and hijacked the mike. She claims she was physically blocked from getting there first:

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.

He says, uh. No:

[The decision of who gave a speech] was handled by the publicist for the academy. I don't know what they told her. The academy is very clear that only one person can speak. I own the film. She has no claim whatsoever. She has nothing to do with the movie. She just ambushed me. I was sort of in shock.

My mother got up to hug me. And my mother is 87 years old. She was excited.

So...it kind of sounds like Music by Prudence is not the movie Burkett wanted to make, and she did not get the level of creative control she wanted, and the whole thing ended up being a clash of vision and ego and lawsuits. I imagine this sort of thing happens a lot, particularly when you're making movies with non-movie people. So she disowned the film and stepped aside and all of that was well and good...until Roger's version started winning awards. Then she wanted back in, and thanks to her elbows and some tremendous balls, she got what she wanted. For 45 embarrassing seconds, anyway. 

Uh, congrats?


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Do they not have security at the freaking Oscars?


I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that an African-American has probably heard of Zimbabwe.

My guess is after this, she'll be making more movies there instead of Hollywood anyway, so it's a good thing she's so comfortable with it.

Scout's Honor

Wow!! I was totally wondering about that! Why didn't they have security and why did she even get an invitation to the Oscars. what a bitch!

Life of a Doctor's Wife

So glad you brought this up because it was So Freaking Awkward. The poor director was looking around for someone to please get her off the stage. Wow.

He did get there a lot faster than she did though... Maybe the Moms did cane-block her from the stage. If so - bravo.


Now I have to go back through my TiVo, 'cuz I went and peed right when this guy's name was announced.


This is why the Zimbabweans hate us.

Deb on the Rocks

Caneblocked by his mother. Awesome. I bet she has a blog somewhere. She just feels like a blogger to me.


I was at a "Let's get together and mock the Oscars" party last night, so you can IMAGINE how absolutely perfect this moment was for us. We stopped and rewound four times to enjoy the awkwardness over and over. It was like a little gift just for my snarky friends and me. And it was awesome.


Yikes, what a bitch! The poor guy will probably never have that chance again. I feel bad for him, especially because HIS movie looks really good.


I thought that seemed awkward but missed part of it...thanks for the whole story.

Suzy Q

This was the best moment. It totally got him off his very serious-sounding speech, which, gah, people, you just won a freaking award! Be happy!

He should have grown some balls and shoved her aside, if he was that upset by it.


I saw the block!! I was like, eh? why can't that lady get out of the seats? And she was all pushy but couldn't get out, and the guy was like - BOOKING it down the aisle (I just thought he was excited) ... and then the speech and the interruption... I was confused. Not confused enough to Google it mind you. But still. Now that you mention it I recall feeling WTF about the whole thing.

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