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Updated on Jun 9, 2020. Posted on Jun 6, 2020

“Selma” Was Punished At The Oscars After The Cast Protested Eric Garner’s Death

"Members of the Academy called in to the studio saying, ‘How dare they do that?'"

The Black Lives Matter movement sweeping the globe is not just about police brutality, justice for George Floyd, and the many other Black people killed by police, but also about systemic racism and lack of representation — which, of course, includes Hollywood.

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In a recent interview, Selma actor David Oyelowo opened up about the backlash he and the cast faced after protesting Eric Garner's death in 2014.

David M. Benett / Dave Benett/WireImage

"Six years ago," he said during Screen Talks, Screen International's live Q&A series, "Selma coincided with Eric Garner being murdered. That was the last time we were in a place of ‘I Can’t Breathe.'"

Paramount / ©Paramount/Courtesy Everett Collection

Like George Floyd, "I can't breathe" were some of Eric Garner's last words before he was killed by police in New York City.

"I remember at the premiere of Selma us wearing ‘I Can’t Breathe’ T-shirts in protest," he continued.

Ray Tamarra / GC Images

"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.’"

Rob Kim / Getty Images

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is the organization behind the Oscars, aka the Academy Awards.

“It’s part of why that film didn’t get everything that people think it should’ve got and it birthed #OscarsSoWhite," he continued. “They used their privilege to deny a film on the basis of what they valued in the world.”

Paramount / ©Paramount/Courtesy Everett Collection / Everett Collection

Though the film — which received critical acclaim and currently holds a 99% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes — was nominated for Best Picture at the Oscars in 2015 and won Best Original Song, it was snubbed in all other categories including Best Director and Best Actor. In fact, all four acting categories that year were dominated by only white actors.

Selma's director, Ava DuVernay, confirmed the backlash they received with a simple tweet: "True story."

True story. https://t.co/l7j8EUg3cC

The Academy — which, like many other organizations, shared a message of solidarity amid the George Floyd protests — responded to Ava and David's remarks on Twitter and said that it was "committed to progress."

Ava & David, we hear you. Unacceptable. We’re committed to progress. @ava #DavidOyelowo https://t.co/1LoriTfYva

It's worth noting that the Oscar nominations this very year were, once again, criticized for their lack of inclusivity — only one person of color was nominated out of all four acting categories.

Glen Wilson / ©Focus Features/courtesy Everett Collect / Everett Collection

Cynthia Erivo received a Best Actress nomination for her role in Harriet.

So, to the Academy, I'll believe it when I see it.

You can now stream Selma for free on all US platforms, along with these 22 other essential films about race.

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