In recent years, Ava DuVernay has created masterpiece after masterpiece. From her gripping and thought-provoking piece, Thirteen to her groundbreaking work with Queen Sugar. In Queen Sugar, DuVernay uses her platform to highlight female directors of color which is ALL she uses on the show.
Duverney is an American gem who moves with the intentionality of a military general trying to win a war with all the lives of her army in tact. Selma, which is arguably Duverney's best known work highlights both her brilliance and her struggle.
I was recently listening to the Black Men Can't Jump in Hollywood podcast. The podcast focuses on Black movies and ultimately rates their importance to the Black cause in Hollywood. It's rather entertaining and I'm a fan, to say the least. In the episode focused on Selma, I learned some amazing things. (1) Steven Spielberg OWNS the rights to all of Martin Luther King Jr.'s speeches and (2) Ava DuVernay was robbed of writing credit for Selma.
Yes, you heard me, Steven Spielberg owns the rights to MLK's speeches. He bought them from King's estate in 2009. DuVernay was not allowed to use any of the speeches in Selma, which meant that every word in every speech you heard King give in Selma came directly from DuVernay's pen.
One would think that rewriting the speeches of one of the world's greatest orators would gain DuVernay acclaim for her amazing writing. Well, you would be wrong. Selma was originally written by this guy named Paul Webb. Paul Webb originally wrote the screenplay in 2008 focusing on both King and President Lyndon B. Johnson. Once the script made it's way to DuVernay, she did a complete rewrite. Because of Webb's contract, the choice was solely his as to whether he wanted to share credit with DuVernay. He declined.
To be clear, DuVernay rewrote the entire movie. She chose to focus solely on King and the events of Selma. She wrote in Black authenticity an older white man just couldn't understand. Think about the scene when MLK and company show up to their friend's home, played by Niecy Nash. The beauty of that scene could only have been captured by a person that grew up in an environment where they saw Black men of the clergy interacting with the public mask off. It has beauty that bled authenticity.
Again. Paul Webb declined to share credit. Not give up all credit, but to just share credit.
...and the gracious and deathly talented Ava DuVernay never publicly complained. Not once. She put her head down and took that abuse so a new generation could experience Selma and know its importance.
In my mind, this makes DuVernay even more amazing than I ever could have imagined. She is the living embodiment of what the movie Hidden Figures embodied right in front of us. Ms. DuVerney, you are amazing. Thank you.