Ava DuVernay and David Oyelowo Accuse Academy Voters of Punishing Selma After 2014 Protest

In a new interview, David Oyelowo accused Academy members of refusing to vote for Ava DuVernay’s 2014 film Selma after the cast wore “I can’t breathe” T-shirts to protest Eric Garner’s death.

By Samantha Schnurr Jun 05, 2020 5:37 PMTags
Watch: Common Responds to "Selma" Oscar Snubs

Amid the ongoing Black Lives Matter movement, David Oyelowo and Ava DuVernay have spoken out about what their film allegedly faced after the cast participated in the movement six years ago. 

In December 2014, DuVernay's Selma released in theaters, starring Oyelowo as Martin Luther King, Jr. While the film was critically acclaimed and nominated for Best Picture at the 2015 Oscars along with Best Original Song for "Glory," which John Legend and Common ended up winning, the movie was not recognized in the other categories.

Despite being nominated for a Golden Globe, DuVernay was snubbed for Best Director at the Oscars, a category that was dominated solely by male nominees. Meanwhile Oyelowo, who was also nominated for a Golden Globe, was not nominated for his acting. These snubs added to the #OscarsSoWhite backlash and controversy that sparked in 2015 when all four acting categories featuring only white nominees.

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Now, in a new interview with Screen Daily, Oyelowo has claimed more had happened behind the scenes.

"Six years ago," he recalled to the website, "Selma coincided with Eric Garner being murdered. That was the last time we were in a place of 'I Can't Breathe.'"

As Oyelowo explained, "I remember at the premiere of Selma us wearing 'I Can't Breathe' T-shirts in protest. Members of the Academy [of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences]  called in to the studio and our producers saying, 'How dare they do that? Why are they stirring S-H-I-T?' and 'We are not going to vote for that film because we do not think it is their place to be doing that.'"

He continued, "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." 

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DuVernay agreed with Oyelowo's account, calling his interview a "true story" on Twitter. The Academy's official Twitter account responded, tweeting, "Ava & David, we hear you. Unacceptable. We're committed to progress." E! News has reached out to the Academy for further comment. 

At the end of May, the Academy issued a statement in the wake of George Floyd's death. "The death of George Floyd is not acceptable to anyone," their message read. "We stand in solidarity with our black members, colleagues, storytellers, artists and with all black people across our nation because we know Black Lives Matter. The Academy adds its voice to the call for justice. We must shine a brighter light on racism and do our part to step up to this moment."