Ava Duvernay says ‘Selma’ was snubbed for Oscar over ‘I Can’t Breathe’ t-shirts

It's another instance of Black talent being undermined for taking a stand against racism and police brutality

Ava Duvernay
Ava DuVernay (Credit: Getty Images)

Ava Duvernay has confirmed that Selma was denied votes for the Academy Awards after she and the cast wore “I Can’t Breathe” t-shirts to the 2014 film’s premiere in the wake of the police killing of Eric Garner.

The film director’s confirmation backs up claims from actor David Oyelowo, who portrayed Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in the film about the 1965 march for Black voting rights. Oyelowo told Screen Daily in a story published Thursday that the movie’s studio and producers received backlash for the demonstration.

“I remember at the premiere of Selma us wearing ‘I Can’t Breathe’ t-shirts in protest,” he explained. “Members of the Academy 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.'”

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When the story was posted on Twitter, Duvernay retweeted the post with the caption, “True story.”

The Academy responded to Duvernay’s tweet with a message for both the director and British actor saying, “we hear you. Unacceptable. We’re committed to progress.”

Selma was nominated for two Oscars, receiving a nod for Best Picture and winning the prize for Best Original Song for “Glory” by Common and John Legend.

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Duvernay says the cast was snubbed for Best Picture. That award went to Birdman. The event was a catalyst for the #OscarsSoWhite hashtag.

Martin Luther King thegrio.com

American civil rights leader Martin Luther King (1929 – 1968) (centre) with his wife Coretta Scott King and colleagues during a civil rights march from Selma, Alabama, to the state capital in Montgomery. (Photo by William Lovelace/Express/Getty Images)

Promises to diversify the Oscars have come before.

Former Academy President Cheryl Boone Isaacs vowed changes in the voting process. In 2016, the Academy Awards had a record 18 Black nominees. In 2019, there was a record seven Black winners, however, there were zero Black nominees in the acting categories.