Nova Scotia director Ben Proudfoot has won the best documentary short Oscar for “The Queen of Basketball.”

Proudfoot claimed the Oscar at an hour-long ceremony immediately before Sunday’s star-studded broadcast where Quebec director Denis Villeneuve was among the homegrown contenders chasing a best picture win for “Dune,” “The Power of the Dog” and “Nightmare Alley.”

Proudfoot’s 22-minute long film centres on the story of Lucy Harris, the only woman to be drafted by the NBA and the first Black woman inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame.

“This proves that Lucy Harris’ story, after 45 years of being ignored, does indeed mean something profound to America and the world,” he told The Canadian Press when reached by text at the bash.

“From a quiet town in Mississippi to the world stage, Lucy Harris, The Queen of Basketball, has always and will always belong at the top. Her’s is a record that will never be broken.”

The Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences announced the early win on Twitter, but footage of the presentations and acceptance speeches were held for an edited version that was set to air later Sunday as part of the live ABC/CTV telecast.

The new format saw early trophies handed out in eight categories, half of them including Canadians: documentary short, film editing, makeup and hairstyling, original score, production design, animated short, live action short, and sound.

The academy has said the change was meant to keep the three-hour broadcast “tighter and more electric” for viewers, but it drew intense criticism from many in the film community, including Proudfoot who was also nominated last year for his short documentary “A Concerto is a Conversation.”

Leading up to this year’s bash, Proudfoot had said the move “debases certain categories.”

Proudfoot’s rivals this year included Toronto producer Geoff McLean for his film “Audible,” about a deaf high school football player grappling with the loss while preparing for the final homecoming game.

Others Canadian contenders in the pre-telecast included Saskatoon’s Tamara Deverell and Halifax’s Shane Vieau, who shared a nomination for best production design on “Nightmare Alley;” and two “Dune” artists from Montreal _ makeup artist Donald Mowat and production designer Patrice Vermette. The National Film Board’s Canada/U.K. co-production “Affairs of the Art” lost in the animated short category and also had strong words about the revised ceremony.

In a statement in the days leading up to the show, the NFB predicted the change “will serve to further marginalize short films, which already struggle to find large audiences.”

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