‘Selma’ and the woman who should have made history: Ava DuVernay, Nicole Sperling, Entertainment Weekly, January 21 2015
[T]he real reasons behind the Selma snubs are more complex than race alone. They speak to the entrenched nature of Hollywood politics, the intricacies of Oscar campaign strategies, and the simple power of perception to define a filmmaker’s place in history.
As production on Selma, her 1960s civil rights drama, began in Atlanta last year, DuVernay was determined to keep a promise to herself. “It was important to me that my voice, my vision, stayed intact,” she says. “Because if this movie failed, then it did so based on what I truly liked rather than on some compromise someone got me to make. I would have never forgiven myself because I knew there was not going to be another chance.”
So she fought for what was hers, and it worked. What we see on screen in Selma is entirely her vision. “So much of it is real,” says Congressman John Lewis, who marched with Dr. King. “The first time I went to see it, I cried to be reminded of what happened on Bloody Sunday.”
That refusal to yield created one of the best films of the year, but on the Oscar-campaign trail it would prove to be a double-edged sword.
Race continues to be a thorny issue for the Academy. “We are committed to do our part to ensure diversity in the industry,” Cheryl Boone-Isaacs, the Academy’s current and first black president told the New York Times. “We are making great strides, and I personally wish it was moving quicker, but I think the commitment is there and we will continue to make progress.” As of 2012, according to the Los Angeles Times, voters were 94 percent white, and 77 percent male. Still, in the last 15 years that membership has awarded more nonwhite actors and films about people of color (e.g., Slumdog Millionaire, 12 Years a Slave) than in previous 60 years combined. When it comes to racial issues, they like to think they’re the good guys. Confronting them on that topic can backfire. “The Academy loves to be liberal,” says one member. “But they like to be nice and comfortably liberal.”
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