Director and cast walk the red carpet at the Curzon Mayfair cinema for the European premiere of the Martin Luther King, Jr biopic chronicling the 1965 marches from Selma to Montgomery.
Ava DuVernay responds to those who say she was snubbed by the Academy. “There is”, DuVernay tells theslightlyscarlet, “a lot of work to do with diversity and exclusion in all industries, certainly Hollywood is a part of that. As a black person, as a woman filmmaker, all I can do is focus on my work”. “I can’t sit around crying about what someone’s not doing for me, I need to do it for myself, I make these films, I share them with audiences, the rest is a cherry on top, if it happens, it happens, if it doesn’t, it doesn’t but what’s most vital beyond awards, which is just so really unimportant in the grand scheme of things, is that more women, more people of colour, more people in the margins are able to have their voices heard in film.”
DuVernay also states that she doesn’t know why this is the first feature film made about Martin Luther King, Jr but the time is now for this one. “We’re so pleased that it was our turn and our time and that we were able to get this off the ground. That we’re able to see our film in lights here and in the UK is a particular thrill. The Selma marches are just extraordinary, it’s a small sleepy southern town that no one was paying attention to, they bounded together, they raised their voices, they protested, they amplified, and they changed the world. This film is about that – you’re never too small to make a difference.”
When asked about the visceral violent scenes in the film, DuVernay was adamant that she wanted these scenes to remember the lives lost in 1965. “While we were choosing frames, while we were working with the actors, it was always about saying “this really happened, someone really died here” so let’s not just hit them and walk on, let’s really honour that life. That was our approach.”
There was never any moments of doubt or anxiety while shooting Selma according to DuVernay. “We were very certain of what we were doing, we knew that it was important and so everyone risked everything and didn’t have a problem with doing it, even if it took us to some dark places. For me, it’s trying to create as comfortable an atmosphere as possible and making sure that people can come to me with anything they need, any challenges.”
There were several female characters added to the script, was this a conscious decision? “Yes, as a woman director working on the script and the film it was essential to me that we add women so we added about five women characters that really amplified the voices of the ones that were there originally. It’s imperative, you can’t tell stories without women, it’s not true, it’s not the truth. We tried to tell the truth as we saw it and women were there.”
Ava DuVernay tells us that she had some “cool techniques” while filming to keep the cast, including David Oyelowo, in check but she’s keeping these “DuVernay directorial tactics” close to her chest. She did, however, reveal that she is reuniting with Oyelowo for another film based on Hurricane Katrina.
“We just announced this morning that we are going to make another film together, really excited to talk about it on the red carpet today, we’ve been keeping it a secret.“
Selma will be released across the UK and Ireland on 6th February 2015.