Is ‘Selma‘ facing an unprecedented backlash?
Over the weekend, there was a barrage of criticism directed at the Ava DuVernay film, Selma. Every publication from Entertainment Weekly to the New Republic ran articles fact-checking the civil rights film. Politico even said the film diminishes Dr. Martin Luther King’s political genius. What?
While fact-checking isn’t new for historical dramas (Lincoln and Django Unchained were both heavily fact-checked), it seems that this time around, there is an increased level of criticism lobbied at the film. Is it because the film is directed by a black woman? Or because the events of the film only happened a short time ago and historians are calling out the flaws in an attempt to set the record straight?
The biggest backlash of the film comes from the belief that President Lyndon B. Johnson wasn’t accurately portrayed in the film. According to a former aide of President Johnson, Joseph A. Califano Jr., he claims that the Selma march was actually Johnson’s idea.
She also spoke to Rolling Stone about the LBJ portrayal:
“Every filmmaker imbues a movie with their own point of view. The script was the LBJ/King thing, but originally, it was much more slanted to Johnson. I wasn’t interested in making a white-savior movie; I was interested in making a movie centered on the people of Selma. You have to bring in some context for what it was like to live in the racial terrorism that was going on in the deep south at that time.”
EW nearly dissected nearly the entire film during its fact check and the publication didn’t appear to heavily dissect Lincoln or Django.
Perhaps Django wasn’t as heavily criticized because the plot of the film is largely the creation of Quentin Tarantino. No one is watching a Tarantino film and expecting to learn about history. Tarantino also has the luxury of not only being a White man but his popular cult films like Pulp Fiction and Reservoir Dogs really shield his films from being affected by any criticism.
Folks were so fed up over the backlash that they started the trending topic #FactCheckThat.
Black Twitter don’t play.
It goes to show you that films created by us and about us are always heavily criticized. No one seemed to be concerned that Lincoln didn’t focus on the black folks who worked hard to free themselves. While the Lincoln movie was fact-checked, Steven Spielberg wasn’t called to task for a film that he didn’t personally write.
The New Republic wrote:
“Ava DuVernay is a talented filmmaker, but there is an awkward irony in her film reasserting a top-down narrative of the movement just as a new movement with a new generation is utterly rejecting that very model.”
While this isn’t Ava DuVernay’s first film, it’s certainly her first big mainstream release. But the director is more than capable. Not only is she a Sundance Film Festival winner but DuVernay is the first black woman director to be nominated as Best Director for the film at the Golden Globes.
Some criticism is warranted, but the minor flaws of the film definitely don’t take away from the film’s significance and DuVernay’s stellar job as a director.
In other words, go see Selma in theaters January 9!