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Ava DuVernay Explains What Makes ‘Selma’ Different From Other Civil Rights Movies

Ava DuVernay Explains What Makes 'Selma' Different From Other Civil Rights Movies

Paramount treated audiences to an early viewing of “Selma” last night in an effort to meet Oscar voting deadlines. Though the film is unfinished, the civil rights drama managed to stun the audience through its authentic portrayal of the 1965 Selma to Montgomery voting rights march.

After the screening, director Ava DuVernay and cinematographer Bradford Young sat down to discuss the film’s message and their own personal connection to the film. Here are just a few highlights: 

What Makes “Selma” Different?

The story of Martin Luther King, Jr. is a story that will never stop being told. But DuVernay’s film aims to refocus the attention to the people. She explained: “How do you do the civil rights movement that hasn’t been
done? How do you do one that as someone who doesn’t really like film would be
interested in, so we were always trying to deconstruct the genre and also to
get underneath to the people of Selma. It’s called ‘Selma.’ It’s not called ‘The King.’ It was really important that we
adorned him in the film with this band of brothers and sisters who really made
it happen. You can be a leader, but if there’s no one following you, then what
are you doing? So, that was the core of what we really tried to attack every
day with the images and the narrative. All the acting and the craftsmen and
artists rallied around that idea… I wanted to get into the texture of people and deconstruct the statue and the speech and the holiday. That is just not
enough. It’s not the full story.” 

DuVernay’s Personal Stakes In The Film

DuVernay didn’t shy away from discussing her personal investment in the project. She noted how things have changed since Dr. King’s time. “My father is from Lowndes County, so we keep having the characters talk about Lowndes County and the KKK snipers that were positioned in the trees when they were walking from Selma to Montgomery for the
final march. On the final march day in Montgomery, at the capital
of Alabama, George Wallace wouldn’t allow King to stand on the marble steps. They had to go
to the platform. All those troops behind King are
guarding the steps. Wallace would not let them on the capital steps. On the day of shooting, my father rolls up after his night shift and his daughter has shut down the streets of the capital. One of the proudest moments of his whole life.” 

Bradford Young’s Investment

The cinematographer of the film praised DuVernay and called her his “sister” before discussing how meaningful this particular project was for him. “I
moved back to DC just to be close to him [MLK]  and I spent a great part of my life
just trying to wrap my head this. It’s gonna be a
lifelong journey for me. Hopefully my son will take it with him. But, for me
more than anything, this is the story that I studied long to make. From my
perspective, this was a very perfect gesture toward that and I felt like we
really tried hard to be truthful to the moment and this is the most challenging
film for me to deal with after the photography. Whatever vision you see there
was really us just trying to workshop ideas.”      

“Selma” will be released in theaters on December 25.  

READ MORE: For Your Consideration: Why Ava DuVernay’s Potential Oscar Nomination Is a Huge Deal

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