Eli Burkett Strikes Again and Again


There was a lot of trashing of Elinor Burkett last night on the Internets, and Eli did go a little crazy by seizing the microphone for best documentary short, especially because she was not technically the winner, according to the director, as she and the director of the winning film have been suing each other for a while, although The Academy™ does recognize her as producer. But Burkett was the most fascinating person to hit that stage last night, and trashing her is a mistake for those who might be 1. pleased about big wins for “The Hurt Locker” and also 2. interested in authenticity and nonfiction. While “The Hurt Locker” is an action movie wrapped up in the guise of a “real” movie based on “reporting” (and yet is “a collection of scenes that are completely implausible — wrong in almost every respect”), Burkett’s been making opinionated, involved nonfiction for decades.

She is, also, it is apparent to all, kind of… well, let’s call her opinionated! She has a tendency to end up on the outs with collaborators and friends. But to heck with that! Let’s look at her work.

Just for starters, she moved to Kyrgyzstan in September of 2001, which, ha. She spent a year in a suburban high school trying to figure out the kids; she wrote a fantastic book about the distorted way we reward parenting in our society (a must-read for those of us who’ve worked in offices where automatic raises are given whenever anyone “starts a family”).

And there’s her late-90s, pre-Palin history of American right-wing women; and then the rather blockbuster book, with Frank Bruni, on the Catholic Church’s coverup of sexual abuse-and, from 1996, the best history of AIDS yet written. So she’s kind of got it all over everyone else in the end.