The highly anticipated drama Selma opened in limited release on Christmas Day. The film, which focuses on the Martin Luther King Jr.-led march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, has already been nominated for 4 Golden Globe Awards, but its historical accuracy is now being questioned.
In an op-ed piece in The Washington Post, Joseph A. Califano Jr., a top assistant for domestic affairs for President Lyndon Johnson, disputes several points in the film, particularly that MLK and LBJ were adversaries. In the column Califano states:
In fact, Selma was LBJ’s idea, he considered the Voting Rights Act his greatest legislative achievement, he viewed King as an essential partner in getting it enacted — and he didn’t use the FBI to disparage him.”
In response to Califano’s article, the film’s director, Ava DuVernay, took to twitter with the following:
Bottom line is folks should interrogate history. Don’t take my word for it or LBJ rep’s word for it. Let it come alive for yourself. #Selma“
This isn’t the first time that an Oscar-contending film has been accused of taking dramatic license with history. 2001’s A Beautiful Mind withstood claims of inaccuracy to take the Oscar for Best Picture. More recently, 2012’s Zero Dark Thirty was rumored to have had its awards chances dimmed due to what some in government saw as inconsistencies with historical record.
Selma opens wide on January 9th.