If there's a silver lining to being interrupted during an Oscar acceptance speech, it's that people might actually remember your movie now. So what is documentary short Music By Prudence about, anyway?
Prudence Mabhena was born in Zimbabwe with arthrogryposis, a genetic disorder in the joints that necessitated the amputation of her legs at birth. According to the film, in Zimbabwe such disabilities are considered the work of witchcraft, and Mahbena was shunned by her father's family:
Prudence fell prey to neglect and isolation. Her stepmother refused to touch her, and called her a worthless, helpless "ant." For two years, Prudence lived like an animal—crawling on the floor and sleeping in her own urine, and worse. Every day, she dragged herself to a mango tree in the backyard, and told herself that her nightmare will end someday. She was despondent enough to attempt suicide—twice.
But a scholarship to the King George VI School & Centre for Children with Physical Disabilities changed her life. Her transcendent singing voice was first truly recognized, and she and fellow students formed a band, Liyana. (Some of her bandmates' names are Marvelous Mbulo, Energy Maburutse, and Honest Mupatse). Now 21, Prudence currently teaches at the school.
The film will debut on HBO on May 12. There's no trailer yet, but strangely enough, Carson Daly had a meaty segment on it:
As for director Roger Ross Williams, he has his own inspirational story, according to his hometown paper, The Morning Call in Pennsylvania's Lehigh Valley. The son of a single mother who worked as a cleaning lady and factory worker — she is now 87, and the Oscars were her first time on an airplane — he was already a successful television producer. (Elinor Burkett, the co-producer who interrupted his speech, is apparently his neighbor in upstate New York). In the Morning Call interview, says, "I could relate to Prudence, who was an outsider and was discriminated against," adding,
''I was determined to prove myself to everyone,'' he says. ''It gave me drive ... I wanted to prove that I wasn't worthless. I sometimes got the feeling that being gay and black were strikes again me, and I was, like, 'No, I'm going to prove everyone wrong.' My mother taught me to have confidence and ambition and to be proud.''
Who Is Prudence? The Powerful Story Obscured By Oscar's Interrupted Speech [Newsweek]
Lehigh Valley Scores An Oscar With 'Music By Prudence' [Morning Call]
Music By Prudence [Official Site]