Monday, January 19, 2015

Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel Was Front and Centre With MLK During That "Selma" March. So Why Was He Left Out Of the Movie?

As if it isn't bad enough that the movie Selma (Al Sharpton's pick for best flick of the year) falsified history by portraying LBJ as erecting barriers to civil rights instead of tearing them down, we now learn that the filmmakers have messed with another part of the historical record:
The recently released film ‘Selma’ is facing a fresh controversy after the daughter of a famed rabbi who was a leader in the Civil Rights Movement told The Algemeiner she was “shocked and upset” by the exclusion of her father from the movie. 
Susannah Heschel, a Professor of Jewish Studies at Dartmouth College, whose father Abraham Joshua Heschel marched alongside Dr. Martin Luther King at the third protest march from Selma depicted in the film, said that the iconic photo of her father marching with Dr. King “has meant so much to so many people,” even President Obama. 
“President Obama said to me ‘your father is our hero’, everybody knows that picture,” Heschel said. “I felt sad and I had moments when I felt angry,” she said of the omission, describing it as “tragic.” 
Since its release, the film, which portrays a key turning point in the fight for civil rights in the United States, has been surrounded by controversy. Its unsympathetic portrayal of President Lyndon B. Johnson has been roundly condemned as inaccurate, and New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd described it as “artful falsehood.” 
A flurry of criticism also emerged surrounding recognition for the film by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, with accusers claiming that the film was overlooked. 
The film’s producer, Ava DuVernay, defended her inaccurate portrayals in an interview on PBS, saying: “This is art; this is a movie; this is a film. I’m not a historian. I’m not a documentarian.”
I understand the whole "poetic license" thing; heck, Shakespeare's history plays are rife with it. (Did Richard III actually say, "Now is the winter of our discontent..."? I doubt it.) And I can understand why those who made the film would want to omit the Jew; his presence at the march doesn't fit their narrative. But Selma isn't Shakespeare, and if it can't get certain basic and easily verifiable facts correct, then that's a genuine failure. Oh, maybe not of "art." But it's definitely a failure to depict the truth.

Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel (2nd from right) in the Selma Civil Rights March with Martin Luther King, Jr. (4th from right). Photo: Wikipedia.
That's AJH second from the right and one away from MLK.

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