‘Selma’ Cast, Director Protest at Film’s New York Premiere

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Movie premieres and protest don’t usually happen simultaneously, but the  Selma cast decided to make a statement on Sunday night at the film’s Manhattan premiere by including both for the night to call attention to the deaths of unarmed black males at the hands of the police.

While celebrating the film, director Ava DuVernay and the cast — David Oyelowo, E. Roger Mitchell, Wendell Pierce, Omar Dorsey, John Lavelle, Stephan James, Kent Faulcon, Lorraine Toussaint, Andre Holland, Tessa Thompson and Colman Domingo — stood on the steps of the New York Public Library, wearing shirts that read “I Can’t Breathe,” which were Eric Garner’s last words. They held up their arms as a sign for “don’t shoot,” as Michael Brown did before he was gunned down.

Starring David Oyelowo as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Selma centers around the iconic civil rights leader as he goes head to head with President Lyndon B. Johnson (Tom Wilkinson), FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover (Dylan Baker) and Alabama Gov. George Wallace (Tom Roth) to ensure equal voting rights for all men and women. Selma takes place during three months in 1965 and ultimately led to President Lyndon B. Johnson signing the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

The premiere took place on Sunday, just a day after the Millions March, a civil rights protest that brought out more than 25,000 people to walk through Manhattan demanding justice following the deaths of Michael Brown, Eric Garner and all other blacks killed unjustly.

The cast acknowledged the parallel between the civil and racial injustices recounted in the film, and what is happening in America right now.

“You can look out your window and you can see people protesting and you can look at the film and it looks similar,” said Oprah Winfrey, who is a producer on the film and has an acting role as well. “People are wearing different kind of clothes, it’s a different era but the same issues still prevail.”

Oyelowo said at the premiere, “We couldn’t have predicted what would happen in terms of what’s going on, race relations-wise. We finished shooting in early July and by early August, Michael Brown had been murdered and now we’re in the middle of the Eric Garner situation. I just think it shows … We do not live in a post-racial America.”

Selma opens in limited release on Christmas Day in New York, Los Angeles, Atlanta and Washington D.C., followed by a wide release on Jan. 9.

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