Ava Duvernay became the first Black Woman to be nominated for Best Director at the Golden Globes for her 2014 film “Selma.” While Ava didn’t take home the statuette, the nomination further solidified what viewers felt since reliving the historic Alabama march on the big screen — Ava is deserving of an award, because “Selma” is that good.
“Selma” is centered around MLK’s strained marriage to his wife Coretta and the inner turmoil he faced during the lead up to the iconic march to Montgomery. Ava’s ability to inject new life into the two-dimensional figure makes “Selma” an Oscar contender. And it’s Ava’s feminine touch that distinguishes the Harpo produced biopic from every other MLK flick that has been released.
“To work with Ava was really, really fascinating,” Carmen Ejogo, who plays the role of Coretta Scott King in “Selma,” told #TeamBeautiful during a candid chat after the “Selma” press conference in NYC. “As a woman director, I don’t really like to describe her like that, she’s really just a great director and she can stand up to any guy I ever worked with. But, there is something specific she brings that is specifically female. There’s a nurturing quality that was definitely there on set.”
Duvernay went through a sort of deconstruction process to get to the root of MLK’s character. “I mean, you just have to really deconstruct all of the things that you think you know about him,” she told us during the press conference. “And really look to the fact that this is a brother from Atlanta. Brother from Atlanta, father was a preacher, grandfather was a preacher. He didn’t want to be a preacher.”
She added, “That’s the way we approach it as a person and their real life story, as opposed to four words and your whole life is reduced to four words, to ‘I have a dream.’ I mean, what will any of us do if we were reduced to four words? He was so much more than that. And so that was my approach is just to try to track his life and get underneath the meat of it.”
Ava’s impassioned approach to “Selma” shows in its deep story lines that go where textbooks don’t. Ava had to channel deep emotions and not only capture the essence of Dr. King, but his wife Coretta, who was more than an iconic figure as well and their dynamic as a married couple.
One of “Selma’s” most uncomfortable scenes confronts MLK’s alleged infidelities. “Ava’s brilliant in that she really understands the way people talk in real like about real stuff when it’s really going down,” Carmen Ejogo said. “You see most Hollywood films and you kind of know when the response is coming back and there’s a timing in it all that’s predictable. Ava gave such breath to these scenes and was really willing to let them stretch so that pause in the end between her asking that question and him answering was so uncomfortable.”
Oprah, noted, “We were not allowed to use any of his original speeches and there were times where we needed another scene and the producers would be on the phone and say, ‘Ava can you write that this weekend? Can you go back and channel Dr. King and write that this weekend?’ Which she did. Every single word coming out of his mouth during those speeches, Ava wrote them. And did it in such a way that in the end Bernice King says to [David], ‘It is the best interpretation of my father I’ve ever seen.”
“Selma” landed a nom in the Best Film category at the Academy Awards, however, Duvernay and “Selma’s” lead characters Carmen Ejogo and David Oyelowo were snubbed. Spike Lee came to the defense of the rising director, saying, “F*ck ’em. You made a very good film, so feel good about that and start working on the next one.”
Touché Spike. Touché.