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‘Selma’ Director on Film’s Inaccuracies: ‘I’m Not Gonna Argue History’

Selma director Ava DuVernay was speaking at a luncheon in New York on Tuesday when she was told her audience, “I’m not gonna argue history” in response to a question about her film’s version of events regarding former President Lyndon B. Johnson’s role in the civil rights movement.

Since the film’s limited opening on Christmas Day, Selma’s narrative has been challenged by critics for its inaccurate portrayal of President Johnson as an obstructionist to the movement. (In the film, Johnson used the Federal Bureau of Investigation to discredit civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr.)

That criticism of the DuVernay’s interpretation led to a pointed question during a Q&A portion of the luncheon from CBS This Morning co-anchor Gayle King, who is also a close friend to Selma producer Oprah Winfrey.

“Recently, as we all know, there’s been a bit of controversy where people are questioning some of the decisions you made,” King said. “I don’t like to use the word ‘accused,’ but it’s been said that you were less than kind or less than accurate about President Johnson. How do you respond to that, Ava?” she finished.

DuVernay responded, saying, “I think everyone sees history through their own lens, and I don’t begrudge anyone from wanting to see what they want to see. This is what I see. This is what we see. And that should be valid. I’m not gonna argue history; I could, but I won’t.”

The director continued:

If there is anything that we should be talking about in terms of legacy, it is really the destruction of the legacy of the Voting Rights Act and the fact that that very act is no more in the way that it should be, protecting all voices to be able to heard and participate in the electoral process.

She finished, adding, “That is at risk right now. There’s been violence done to that act. We chronicle its creation in our film. And so I would just invite people to keep their eyes on the prize and really focus on the beautiful positives of the film.”

This marks the second time in just over a week that DuVernay has had to publicly defend Selma’s portrayal of LBJ as an obstructionist. On December 28, the director took to Twitter to answer her critics:

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