On MLK Day, “Selma” Director Debriefs in Boston

Selma director Ava DuVernay speaks in Somerville Monday night. The talk was moderated by Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates. (Photo by Nicole Jacques)

By Taylor Walker
BU News Service

Ava DuVernay had 127 minutes to unfold the story of a movement that transformed America. Speaking before a packed cinema in Somerville Monday, the “Selma” director shared her thoughts about the film, the backlash over historical accuracy, and a controversial lack of Oscar nominations.

“I wasn’t really tripping about everything people are getting up and arms about,” said DuVernay in response to not being nominated for an Oscar for her direction of the film. “The sundae’s still good if there’s no cherry on top, it’s still delicious,” she said. The film has been nominated for best picture and best original song. 

Her film is a dish members of the audience thoroughly enjoyed judging by the standing ovation that they gave the director. Visiting Boston for the MLK Day screening and discussion moderated by Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr., DuVernay said that the film created a needed discomfort.

“I am not here to rehabilitate or celebrate, I am just telling a story,” said DuVernay. “Selma” chronicles one historic battle in the fight for voting rights for African Americans in the South. “This is the first major picture with King at the center of his own story.”

Critics and historians have harped on the film’s depiction of President Lyndon B. Johnson, calling it inaccurate.

“I can only shrug and keep moving,” said DuVernay. “I will not allow this film to get strangled by that narrative.”

The director says her primary mission for movie-watchers is to not allow the film to wither from their minds upon exit. And for critics she made one blunt declaration: It is done, it’s in the world, and you’re just going to have to deal with it.

The event was sponsored by Harvard’s Hutchins Center for African & African American Research.

Audience member asks a question after the screening of Selma. (Photo by Nicole Jacques)

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