Haters gon’ hate. Despite the award nominations and praise that have been buzzing around the new film Selma, many are criticizing the movie’s director, Ava DuVernay, for historical inaccuracies, particularly regarding the film’s portrayal of President Lyndon B. Johnson.
LBJ scholars have said that President Johnson, who was in office during that critical period in 1965, is depicted in the film as being pushed by civil rights activists into signing the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
However, both DuVernay and Henry Louis Gates Jr. were quick to shut that down, voicing their disappointment that the focus had shifted from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the real message of the film. They both responded during a luncheon at the Metropolitan Club in New York City yesterday.
“This is a feature film, and I think both the script and the direction are masterpieces, and any attempt to make this about the Great White Father is misdirected,” Gates said. “I mean, nobody’s given Steven Spielberg sh*t about what he changed in the actual Schindler story. And no one should.”
DuVernay, who just made history as the first Black female director nominated for a Golden Globe, also had a few thoughts of her own, upset that people had reduced the film to “one talking point.” Read her full comment below:
I think everyone sees history through their own lens and I don’t begrudge anyone from wanting to see what they want to see. This is what I see, this is what we see. And that should be valid. I’m not gonna argue history. I could, but I won’t. I’m just gonna say that my voice, David’s voice, the voice of all the artists that gathered to do this, [and] Paramount Pictures which allows us to amplify this story to the world, [are] really focused on issues of justice and dignity.
And for this to be I think reduced—reduced is really what all this is—to one talking point of a small contingent of people who don’t like one thing, I think is unfortunate, because this film is a celebration of people, a celebration of people who gathered to lift their voices, black, white, otherwise, all classes, nationalities, faiths, to do something amazing.
And if there’s anything that we should be talking about in terms of legacy, it is really the destruction of the legacy of the Voting Rights Act and the fact that that very act is no more in the way that it should be protecting all voices to be able to be heard and participate in the electoral process. That is at risk right now. There’s been violence done to that act that we chronicle its creation in our film. So I would just invite people to keep their eyes on the prize and really focus on the beautiful positives of the film. And that was our intention.
Selma opens nationwide this Friday.