|The original photo: John Lewis of SNCC, an unidentified nun,
Rev. Ralph Abernathy; Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.,
Ralph Bunche (former U.S. Ambassador to the UN),
Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, and Rev. Fred Shuttleswort
I would sure love to have DuVernay come here and tell us why she made this bad decision. But since neither she nor Oprah answered my tweets on the subject, I suppose I'll just have to guess on my own. Yes, I've read all the antisemitism and conspiracy theories, but I find myself wondering if it isn't something much simpler: a major Hollywood blooper. It would not be the first time. But if so, it's a whole lot bigger blooper than a water bottle on Downton Abbey. So here goes:
A still from the movie. That guy on the right is no Heschel.
And what's with that suitcase he is carrying?
Theory #2: Maybe Heschel did not look "rabbinical" enough for her take on the scene. If you compare her version with the original, you'll see that Heschel is not the only change in the lineup. The original doesn't have an Eastern Orthodox priest in clerical garb or a minister (priest?) in a visible clerical collar. On the other hand the movie version does not have the "unidentified nun" dressed in a habit like the original. So it appears that DuVernay was doing a sort of visual smorgasbord, plugging in what she thought would be easily recognizable to her viewers as an interfaith scene. ("A rabbi, a minister, and a priest marched at Selma...")
Theory #3: If she didn't know who Heschel was, then maybe DuVernay did not recognize the Heschel figure as a rabbi, and thought he was just some old hippie. So she did a switcheroo to fit her visual imagery. After all, Heschel usually wore a beret, not a yarmulke, which is what most gentiles think of as Jewish clergy garb. But if this is the case, then her research crew really blew it.
Theory #4: Maybe DuVernay thought Heschel was too disheveled and hippie-like for her 21st-century take on the scene. Again comparing the original to the still, there has been quite a bit of sprucing up. The original characters all look a bit wrinkled, as indeed they would be, after hours of getting ready for the march. Heschel himself flew out immediately after the Sabbath ended on Saturday in order to be there on Sunday -- no time for a trip to the barber. But Duvernay's actors are as natty as can be, not a wrinkle or speck of dirt in sight, not a hair out of place. And the substitute rabbi is perfectly neat and clean-shaven. Maybe that is the "art" part of it that DuVernay refers to. Creating a tableau instead of a recreation of history.
But if personal appearance was why Heschel was removed, then I wonder what she would have done with a movie about Einstein? Given him a shave and a haircut? But then, she would have known who Einstein was, would have realized how instantly recognizeable his "disheveled" appearance is.
|Heschel and King