Taking part in a Q&A with Screen Daily, Oyelowo recalled promotion for the Martin Luther King biopic happening around the time that Garner died in 2014 after being put in a chokehold by a police officer.
“Six years ago, Selma coincided with Eric Garner being murdered. That was the last time we were in a place of ‘I Can’t Breathe’,” Oyelowo explained, referencing words said by both Garner and George Floyd before their deaths.
“I remember at the premiere of Selma, us wearing ‘I Can’t Breathe’ T-shirts in protest. Members of the Academy called in to the studio and our producers saying, ‘How dare they do that? Why are they stirring s***’ and ‘We are not going to vote for that film because we do not think it is their place to be doing that.'”
He continued: “It’s part of why that film didn’t get everything that people think it should’ve got and it birthed #OscarsSoWhite. They used their privilege to deny a film on the basis of what they valued in the world.”
Despite receiving critical acclaim, Selma, which was directed by Ava DuVernay, was only nominated for two Oscars, with DuVernay confirming Oyelowo’s claims on Twitter as she reshared his comments with the words: “True story.”
In response, the Academy offered an apology to the pair, tweeting: “Ava & David, we hear you. Unacceptable. We’re committed to progress.”
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