Watch: Director Ava DuVernay and The Root Editor-in-Chief Henry Louis Gates Jr. Discuss Selma

Stephen A. Crockett Jr.
Henry Louis Gates Jr. and Ava DuVernay
Nicole Cvetnic/The Root

Selma director Ava DuVernay is over the Academy Awards snub heard ’round the world. In fact, the reaction she gave to The Root’s editor-in-chief, Henry Louis Gates Jr., following a screening of her movie, which charts Martin Luther King Jr.’s march for equal voting rights, was, “So what.” She admitted to the Sommerville, Mass., crowd that saw the movie screening, sponsored by the Hutchins Center for African and African American Research, that while a nomination would have been nice, the completed movie and audience reaction has been better. 

“I wasn’t really tripping on what everybody else was up in arms about,” DuVernay said. Had the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences nominated DuVernay, she would have been the first African-American woman in the running for the best director award. “It’s like a sundae. It’s still good without the cherry on top. Really, I’m much more fine with it than Twitter [was].”


Selma received two nominations: best picture and best original song.  

What really got DuVernay riled were complaints that her portrayal of President Lyndon B. Johnson was inaccurate. Some have argued that the Selma, Ala., march was Johnson’s idea and that the movie shows the then-president as an opponent of the civil rights movement.

“It’s not just folks stating an opinion. It’s an attack. It’s coming with a tinge of ‘How dare,’” DuVernay said. She noted that white historical movies aren’t treated with the same scrutiny and that some of the reaction could be rooted in white moviegoers’ being uncomfortable with “people of color being the center of their own story.”

“You can’t get every bit of human life distilled in two hours,” she said. “[The movie’s] done, it’s in the world, you’re gonna have to deal with it.”


Watch DuVernay and Gates discuss Selma below:

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