|David Oyelowo plays Martin Luther King. Ava DuVernay directed "Selma"|
by David Carr
Monday is Martin Luther King Jr. Day and given the context, it is an interesting moment to ask whether it really matters that the Motion Picture academy failed to nominate the black director and the black lead actor of “Selma,” the King biopic, for Oscars.
After all, it lands fairly low on the list of indignities visited on African-Americans: No unarmed people died, no innocent citizens were patted down or jailed.
But yes, it still matters. The news continues to be full of all manner of pathology and victimization involving black Americans, and when a moment comes to celebrate both a historical giant and a pure creative achievement, it merits significant and broad recognition.
Many would say that it should suffice that “12 Years a Slave,” a film by a black director about black history, won best picture last year, and “Selma” was nominated this year, and that any grievance is a conjured one. I disagree.
The director of “Selma,” Ava DuVernay, is a black woman who found the studio backing to make a movie that is great cinema, not a history lesson. And no club in the United States — over the last several years, the academy has beenaround 93 percent white, 76 percent male and an average of 63 years old — is in more need of new blood than Hollywood. The academy tends to recognize the body of work of directors, not just a single film, and this is just Ms. DuVernay’s third narrative feature, so that may have played a role.
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