Selma Star David Oyelowo Has Harsh Words For The Academy

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We can all more or less agree that the Oscars snub of Selma was a ridiculous oversight, but the real question is why the Academy overlooked David Oyelowo and director Ava DuVernay for best actor and best director, respectively speaking. Oyelowo, who centers the period piece as a wonderfully human Martin Luther King Jr., has some theories — and he isn't afraid to share them.

Oyelowo was at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival last weekend, and when he was asked about the "Oscar snub outrage," the actor didn't mince words. 

"There has been no film where Dr. King has been the center of his own narrative until now. That's because up until 12 Years a Slave and The Butler did so well, both critically and at the box office, films like this were told through the eyes of white protagonists because there is a fear of white guilt," he said.

"So you have a very nice white person who holds black people's hands through their own narrative. We don't want to see that pain again, so you don't even go into what that pain was in an authentic way. Both of those things are patronizing to the audience. You can't have people curating culture in this way when we need to see things in order to reform from them."

Selma has come under fire for its portrayal of Lyndon B. Johnson, a movement conveniently kicked off by an op-ed penned by the late president's top assistant for domestic affairs, but that's a tiny bit misleading. The bigger problem, Academy-wise, that Oyelowo is referring to is that Selma shows civil rights activists organizing and advocating for themselves. 

The movie illustrates the differences of opinion between various groups like the local Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, who were critical of King's approach, and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, then led by Reverend James Bevel (Common), among others. Although there are white activists in Selma, the focus is on the most active and prominent activists like MLK, Rev. Bevel, Coretta Scott King (Carmen Ejogo), Annie Lee Cooper (Oprah Winfrey), and Amelia Boynton Robinson (Lorraine Toussaint). Malcom X (Nigel Thatch) also makes a brief appearance.

As the title indicates, Selma isn't a biopic about Martin Luther King Jr., but a period piece illustrating how the people most active in the civil rights came together to march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge. That included some white allies, yes, but Selma isn't about them, and perhaps that's what sticks in the Academy's craw more than anything else. [The Hollywood Reporter]

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