As worldwide protests against police brutality rage on, many are looking for ways to bolster their education on racial injustice and it's history in America. Now, Paramount Pictures has announced one of its powerful, Black history films will be available for free to boost your anti-racism watchlist. Selma is free to rent all of June, and it's the perfect time to watch it.
Directed by Ava DuVernay, Paramount's 2014 historical drama Selma is free to watch on all digital platforms for the entire month of June. Paramount made the announcement on Friday, June 5. "We hope this small gesture will encourage people throughout the country to examine our nation’s history and reflect on the ways that racial injustice has infected our society," said the studio. "The key message of Selma is the importance of equality, dignity and justice for all people. Clearly, that message is as vital today as it was in 1965."
DuVernay spread the news on her Twitter account as well, saying, "Happy to share: Paramount Pictures is offering Selma for free rental on all U.S. digital platforms for June, starting today. We’ve gotta understand where we’ve been to strategize where we’re going. History helps us create the blueprint. Onward."
Selma focuses on the 1965 civil rights march from Selma, Alabama to Montgomery, Alabama to secure equal voting rights for Black U.S. citizens. The film stars David Oyelowo as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., alongside Carmen Ejogo, Tessa Thompson, and Andre Holland, and was nominated for Best Picture at the 87th annual Academy Awards.
On Friday, June 4, Oyelowo alleged that The Academy Awards snubbed Selma due to a protest by the cast members. Oyelowo told Screen Daily, “Six years ago, Selma coincided with Eric Garner being murdered. That was the last time we were in a place of ‘I Can’t Breathe.’ I remember at the premiere of Selma us wearing ‘I Can’t Breathe’ T-shirts in protest.” Oyelowo continued, “Members of the Academy called in to the studio and [said to] our producers saying, ‘How dare they do that? Why are they stirring s***?’ and ‘We are not going to vote for that film because we do not think it is their place to be doing that.’”
During that time, Eric Garner and Michael Brown, two unarmed Black men, were killed by white police officers. Garner — who died in a similar way George Floyd, whose May 25 killing sparked national protests against police brutality — was killed in a chokehold and also told the officer at that time the he could not breathe.
Selma received two Academy Award nominations in 2015 for Best Picture and Best Original Song, taking home the Best Original Song award but not the big prize. That ceremony was also notable for all 20 of the nominees in acting categories being white, sparking the trending hashtag #OscarsSoWhite. DuVernay responded to Oyelowo's interview, writing "True story" in a tweet.
The Academy issued an apology statement to Oyelowo and DuVernay on Twitter, writing, "Ava & David, we hear you. Unacceptable. We’re committed to progress."
Other anti-racist films you can stream for free during this time include work from Black filmmakers featured on The Criterion Channel. The Criterion Channel made an announcement on Thursday, June 4, that many of its anti-racist films would be available for free, even to non-subscribers. "We've taken down the paywall on as many of these titles as we can, so even if you aren't a subscriber you can watch them for free," wrote Criterion in a Twitter post.
To stream Selma for free through the end of June, find it on any digital rental platform, and keep your eyes out for studios to make other important films about race available online this month.