It was a powerful film that dramatized one of the Civil Rights Movement’s most poignant moments in history, but Selma was reportedly blackballed by the Academy Awards. Selma would go on to earn Oscar nominations for Best Picture and Best Original Song, with Common and John Legend winning for the latter. However, as well-received as the movie was, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences decided not to include the film in any other category. David Oyelowo starred in the Ava Duvernay-directed film as Dr. Martin Juther King Jr., and he recently told Screen Daily‘s Screen Talks that after they wore “I Can’t Breathe” shirts to the movie’s premiere, Academy members were angry.
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“Selma coincided with Eric Garner being murdered,” Oyelowo said of the black man who was choked to death by police as he told them, “I Can’t Breath.” The actor added, “That was the last time we were in a place of ‘I Can’t Breathe.’… I remember at the premiere of Selma us wearing ‘I Can’t Breathe’ T-shirts in protest,” the actor continued. “Members of the Academy called in to the studio and our producers saying, ‘How dare they do that?’ ‘Why are they stirring sh—?’ and ‘We are not going to vote for that film because we do not think it is their place to be doing that.’ It’s part of why that film didn’t get everything that people think it should’ve got and it birthed #OscarsSoWhite. They used their privilege to deny a film on the basis of what they valued in the world.“
Later, DuVernay co-signed David Oyelowo’s account when she tweeted, “True story.” Someone from The Academy acknowledged the story and retweeted the filmmaker with a response that read, “Ava & David, we hear you. Unacceptable. We’re committed to progress.” Check it out below.