It’s that time of year.
With every award season comes inevitable questions about the accuracy of factual-based contenders. This season, the target is shaping up to be Paramount’s Selma.
The Golden Globe nominee for Best Film and Best Director follows the 1964 civil rights march from Selma to Montgomery, led by Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. But the director of the Lyndon B. Johnson Presidential Library takes issue with the film’s depiction of Johnson as an obstructionist to Dr. King and the march.
A new op-ed in the Washington Post piles on.
“Contrary to the portrait painted by Selma, Lyndon Johnson and Martin Luther King Jr. were partners in this effort,” writes Joseph A. Califano Jr., President Johnson’s top assistant for domestic affairs from 1965 through 1969. “Johnson was enthusiastic about voting rights and the President urged King to find a place like Selma and lead a major demonstration. That’s three strikes for Selma. The movie should be ruled out this Christmas and during the ensuing awards season.”
Califano says he has taped phone conversations between LBJ and MLK to back his story and suggests that it was LBJ who came up with the media strategy that King used for the march to “get it on radio, get it on television, get it in the pulpits, get it in the meetings, get it everyplace you can.”
Selma director Ava DuVernay is appalled by the notion that President Johnson had a major role in the march – and has defended her work via Twitter.
Below, DuVernay says it was daunting enough just to make the first theatrical film ever to have Dr. King as the protagonist. It’s been done on television, but never on the big screen as the lead.
According to Deadline.com, the film had solid box office in its limited Christmas Day release ahead of its nationwide bow on Jan. 9.