Among many other things, the Sony Pictures hack revealed some racist attitudes among the studio’s bigwigs. In private emails, producer Scott Rudin and Sony Pictures co-chair Amy Pascal speculated about President Obama’s film taste, snickering over the idea that he would prefer films that deal with the black experience, such as 12 Years a Slave, Django Unchained, and Ride Along. The two executives have since apologized, but the sting was still being felt at a D.C. screening of Selma, which chronicles one of Martin Luther King Jr.’s most famous civil-rights marches. Director Ava DuVernay, the first black woman to be nominated for Best Director at the Golden Globes, spoke about the emails to Variety: “I have two words: sickening and sad. That’s really all I have to say.”
During the Q&A, moderated by PBS NewsHour co-anchor Gwen Ifill, DuVernay was more restrained, but producer Dede Gardner was more direct, “I’d like to think that it can be a very valuable lesson in how powerful the slightest words can be, and how lasting and impactful they are … It is no joke. There are not grades of racism. There’s racism.” TV showrunner Shonda Rhimes didn’t mince words on Twitter when the emails came to light:
During the panel, actor David Oyelowo, who plays Martin Luther King Jr. in Selma, was incisive and thoughtful:
I can’t speak to individuals at Sony, because at the end of the day their privacy was violated. But one thing that you might take away from it is that we’re not crazy. We’re not crazy when we go into these situations and feel like, ‘Why is this such a struggle?’ Why is it that we know that, with Ava having done what she has just done, undeniably, with ‘Selma,’ the same avalanche of opportunities are not going to come her way that would do if she was white and male? It’s just the way it is. And we now have systems in place whereby we’re not going to wait around, but that’s just a truism.