On Friday evening the White House and President Obama hosted a private screening of the new movie Selma. The movie focuses on Martin Luther King Jr and his 1965 civil rights marches in Alabama which eventually lead to the Voting Rights Act. Both the cast and the crew from the biopic were invited by the president to a viewing of the movie in the 40 seat White House theater one day prior to the First Lady’s birthday.
Among the stars that joined the Obama’s were Common, David Oyelowo and Oprah Winfrey. Common is also a nominee for best song for the theme song to the movie, Glory. The stars were also joined by Rep. John Lewis a democrat from Georgia who actually marched in Selma 50 years ago and was reportedly beaten by police.
The screening comes one day after the movie received only two nominations from the Academy Awards. The film only received nominations for best song as well as best picture. Many critics believed the film was a frontrunner for nominations going into the awards season. Although there was disappointment surrounding what many are considering to be a snub by the Academy, the cast was happy to be sharing their work with the President and his family.
Selma is not the first movie to receive a screening at the White House but since the theater is a part of the private residence not all the movie screenings are announced or made public. The movie is also not the first Oscar contender to be screened there. Previous movies to be screened at the White House include Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, Beasts of the Southern Wild and 2012’s Lincoln.
While the film has received a screening in the home of the first black president and centers around the civil rights marches as well as Martin Luther King Jr, those who see the film will not hear any of the iconic speeches of the civil rights leader. Due to copyright laws none of King’s speeches or words were able to be used in the filming of Selma. In 1963 a few months after his I have a Dream speech, King had his speeches and words copyrighted in an effort to support and provide for his family. His 3 children now own the copyrights to not only his likeness but also his words and while they may be considered national treasures they remain under copyright protection until 2038. In an effort to still get the story told, speeches and phrases were rewritten or reworded in an effort to avoid copyright infringement.
The Selma screening at The White House is part of a kick off to the Martin Luther King Jr holiday weekend. Although there is disappointment going into the holiday weekend over the lack of nominations for Selma, those who attended the screening seemed happy and excited. Common posted a message on Instagram where he mentions being able to view the movie with friends at The White House. Still someone else tweeted about what an honor it was to share the screening of Selma with the President and First Lady.
By Kimberley Spinney
Photo by Shubert Ciencia – Flickr License