Kanye West and Taylor Swift were not in attendance at Sunday’s 82nd Annual Academy Awards – but the ceremony still managed to have an interruption heard round world… albeit by two much lesser known people.
When director-producer Roger Ross Williams took the stage at the Kodak Theatre on Sunday to accept the Best Documentary Short award for “Music By Prudence,” he was confronted by an unexpected guest onstage – the film’s other producer Elinor Burkett – who claims she was shut out the Oscar events related to the award-winning short.
“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,” Burkett told Salon.com (for whom she had formerly freelanced) on Sunday night. “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.”
Burkett goes on to claim that Williams’ mother attempted to stop her from taking the stage.
“And his mother took her cane and blocked me. So I couldn’t get up there very fast,” she continued.
Burkett also claims she was left out of all the pre-Oscar festivities – and that the idea for the short film was originally hers.
“He won’t talk to me! This whole week, there have been events thrown by the International Documentary Association, and he hasn’t passed any of the invitations on to me,” Burkett said. “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.”
Salon also spoke to Williams, who said Burkett was not supposed to take the stage with him to accept the award.
“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,” he told Salon. “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.”
Williams also denies Burkett’s claim that the idea for the film was hers.
“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,” he explained, not exactly denying that his mother might have tried to stop Burkett. “My mother got up to hug me. And my mother is 87 years old. She was excited.”
And just like Taylor Swift, the director said he felt his moment in the spotlight was stolen.
“She pulled a Kanye!” he said. “And it’s a shame, because this is such positive, happy film.”