Sunday, January 11, 2015

'Selma' Director Ava DuVernay Talks with MHP About Women in the Civil Rights Movement (Video)

‘Selma’ director Ava DuVernay visits #nerdland Film director Ava DuVernay, nominated for a Golden Globe for the critically-acclaimed “Selma,” joined host Melissa Harris-Perry Sunday for an extensive interview. Watch the full conversation, on

Melissa Harris Perry played clips of her interview with Selma director Ava DuVernay on her MSNBC show earlier today. They discussed Martin Luther King Jr.'s infidelity and how DuVernay chose to explore it from Coretta Scott King's perspective, and the two talked about DuVernay's decision to focus on the women in the movement in her award-nominated film.

Later they discussed the LBJ controversy around the movie, which is an "unfortunate distraction," says DuVernay, from the importance of the film and what Civil Rights leaders accomplished. The film is not about President Lyndon B. Johnson, she declares. I agree.

From the perspective of ethics while crafting creative nonfiction, I can nitpick her decision to misrepresent LBJ as being against voting rights for African-Americans (and I have nitpicked it on Facebook before), but I also think that ultimately this is a minor issue in the shadow of the film's significance and DuVernay's vision.

So, I disagree with former Johnson aide Joseph A. Califano Jr.'s assertion that the film should be barred from awards and no one should see it. That's just petty, old white man pouting. Furthermore, he exaggerates greatly when he says the Selma campaign and the march across the bridge was LBJ's idea. I listened to the recording of the conversation between LBJ and MLK that Califano references, and while it's clear LBJ was not anti-voting rights, it's equally clear he was not the mind behind the Selma strategy.

I think Califano misinterprets King's relative silence as LBJ talks to him as that of an ignorant man being advised to take actions he has not already considered rather than simply a wise man letting the President of the United States of America talk. Plus, the Selma campaign was already underway before King's talk with LBJ on January 15, 1965.

DuVernay, who is up for a Golden Globe tonight, says her goal with Selma was to recreate the spirit of the movement. She was not trying to recreate history in detail.

Notice that I did not step to the "Well, look at Spielberg's Lincoln and that Frederick Douglass was left out completely" argument to support DuVernay's decision. MHP tugged on that one today, but for me, "tit for tat" arguments are usually emerge from small thoughts.

Apparently King is shown in an authentically human way, too, in the movie. We see him taking out the trash, joking about diets with friends, and loving music, say people who have seen the film already. So, I look forward to a more realistic portrayal of this great but humanly flawed man.

The best thing this movie can do is make the current and future generation of young people grasp the cost of freedom for African-Americans. Unfortunately, too many remain clueless about the past that created the present. DuVernay says that as she went around the country with the film she discovered deep ignorance about what happened in Selma. Some people thought the name "Selma" was the name the name of a character played by Oprah Winfrey.

I'd like to say I'm shocked, but in viewing the key words used when people are searching for my Martin Luther King Jr. poem, "Remembering a Life," I detect a great deal of ignorance about King himself. Some people think that King is someone who wrote a famous poem called "I Have a Dream." So, given that people remain ignorant of who Dr. King was despite the spotlight we shine on him, is it any surprise people don't know the actual history of that walk across the bridge in Selma? It's not as though this moment is covered much in schools.

Selma opened in theaters a few days ago.

No comments: