Posted on Monday, March 8th, 2010 by Russ Fischer
Some of the best filmmaking stories involve fueds, and while the run-up to the Oscars in the press was largely concerned with the constructed narrative of Cameron vs. Bigelow, it was a smaller but far more real conflict that took center stage for a moment.
In an Oscar telecast that was noticeably light on dramatic moments, one odd near-confrontation really stands out. When the Oscar was presented to the creator of Music by Prudence, winner in the documentary short category, director/producer Roger Ross Williams took the stage, only to be forcibly interrupted by producer Elinor Burkett, who wrestled the mic away from Williams to make her own speech. What was that all about? Turns out the duo aren’t exactly copacetic, and that there is some difference of opinion as to who is more important to the film’s genesis.
Salon has a good rundown of the history of the film, with statements from both Williams and Burkett. When Burkett took the stage last night it looked like a Kanye moment, but what was really going on?
What happened was the director 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.
Williams, meanwhile, explains,
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…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.
What about the thing with the cane? That sounded weird, right? Williams explains, “My mother got up to hug me. And my mother is 87 years old. She was excited.”