Tag Archives: Ava DuVernay

Marvel chooses Ava DuVernay as director for Black Panther movie & she turns them down

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UPDATE 05.07.15:

Following weeks of speculation and excitement on social media “Selma” director Ava DuVernay has confirmed that she has passed on the director’s spot for Marvel’s ‘Black Panther’ project. Speaking to Essence magazine DuVernay confirmed “I’m not signing on to direct Black Panther. I think I’ll just say we had different ideas about what the story would be. Marvel has a certain way of doing things, and I think they’re fantastic and a lot of people love what they do. I loved that they reached out to me. I loved meeting Chadwick (Boseman who will play Black Panther) and the writers and all the Marvel execs….in the end it comes down to story and we just didn’t see eye to eye. “Better for me to realize that now than cite creative differences later”.

The confirmation will come as a disappointment to fans of the director and Marvel who had high hopes for DuVernay’s take on Marvel’s first black superhero. It’s rumoured the character will make his first appearance in the upcoming “Captain America-Civil War” which is currently filming and due for release next spring.


Tyler Perry Talks Calling the Shots and Leaving a Legacy

Written by: Reece Ristau
31 May 2015


Tyler Perry has never played by Hollywood’s rules!

That’s what the prolific writer, director, producer, chairman and actor, known for works such as “If Loving You Is Wrong,” the “Madea” movies and more told the audience is the secret to his success at the 7th annual Produced By L.A. conference Sunday at Paramount Studios.

Perry spoke to moderator Ava DuVernay, who directed the Oscar-nominated “Selma,” about how he approaches film, emphasizing how he feels the need to stay true to his own vision.

“Will I stay true to my own voice? Will I stay true to what I feel? Will I follow my heart in my decisions of: ‘This is how this has to be done for me,’” Perry said.

When Perry’s career was first getting off the ground in the late ’90s, doing stage shows in Georgia, he quit more than 17 jobs to follow his dream.

Perry continued to call the shots when he moved to Hollywood. When his TV series “House of Payne” was being shopped around by studios, Perry refused to do just a pilot, he said at the conference. He refused to do just a season. He demanded 90 episodes, and got it.

DuVernay asked him how he makes decisions, decisions such as taking on a 400-employee staff or building his own studio.

“What’s my instinct, what’s my gut? I don’t turn away from it,” Perry said. “I don’t talk myself out of it.”

Perry also touched the legacy he hopes to leave.

“As I’m talking about building and leaving a legacy, especially being a person of color, for my son, and for my grandchildren, it’s all about leaving something that they can be proud of,” Perry said. “To let them know … that no matter what is in the air about race, there is a way to make your own work.”

DuVernay joked that Perry knows a thing or two about branding.

“Branding’s good,” Perry responded. “I think I know it too much; ‘Tyler Perry’s this, Tyler Perry’s that.’”

The Producers Guild of America produced the event.

Courtesy of www.variety.com

Selma Review II

Written by: Christine Eccelston-Craig


Directed by the outstanding Ava DuVernay, Selma is a sensational movie focussing on Dr Martin Luther Kings struggle in the fight for equality during the 1960’s Civil Rights Movement. Filmmaker DuVernays’ main objectives in telling the story of the 1965 Civil Rights marches in Selma, Alabama is to remind the audience of a time where black people were degraded, abused and simply miss-treated based on the colour of their skin. The movie focuses on the brutal violence that black people had to endure, not to mention how many had to die in order to pave the way for future generations. While many people are aware of the Civil Rights Movement in the 60’s Ms DuVernay does an exceptional job as she brings to light more detailed events to ensure our knowledge of this epic movement is not clouded.

“What happens when a man stands up and says enough is enough?”

When Reverend King (played by British actor David Oyelowo), his wife Coretta Scott King (Carmen Ejogo, another British actor) and the members of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) bring their activist campaign for full racial equality to the heart of the Old South in the days where there were strict segregation laws, Martin Luther King’s efforts are anything but subtle as he preaches words of Gandhi and Jesus, his non-violent approach to an equal society quite often leaves him with blood on his hands. But King was a real trooper because despite the many deaths of blacks in the south, he kept on striving! His attorney Fred (Cuba Gooding Jr), Reverend Hosea Williams (Wendell Pierce), Reverend Ralph Abernathy (Ruben Santiago- Hudsen) and their followers knew they would be faced with violent opposing campaigning thugs and perhaps might even be killed, but with the guidance of Dr King and the never ending faith in one another they persevere and continue their righteous fight for an equal and fair society.
Selma_Film_OyelowoOyelowo (Last King of Scotland, Rise of The Planet of the Apes) did an awesome job becoming Dr King and I’m not just talking about the fact that there was a slightly shocking resemblance between the two. His mannerisms and his authoritative voice filled with inspiring words really captured the heart of who Dr King was and why he had so many followers. We all know Martin Luther King was undeniably an amazing orator, so Oyelowo had a tough job incorporating that on screen, but he managed to capture it so well, as an audience you feel like you’re actually living in this harsh era, suffering under the deprivation of your Civil and Human Rights. But the light to guide you to peace and harmony is the astounding Dr King. (Yes, I got all of that just from watching David Oyelowo).

“We built the path as we came; rock by rock”

We cannot forget the film’s producer Oprah Winfrey as she plays a very believable resident of Selma, Annie Lee Cooper. I feel like this role was almost instinctive to her as she played a similar role in The Colour Purple as Sofia. Now, many of the other African- American actors tend to fall into the background whilst fading into the crowd, with the exception of Jimmy Lee Jackson (Keith Stanfield), Malcom X (Nigel Thatch) and gospel singer Mahalia Jackson (Ledisi Young). Director DuVernay frequently shines her light on the righteous activists, but in a large-scale movie like this one the unjustly persecuted are never quite as interesting as the lowdown scoundrels they face. I mean, who doesn’t love a character that really brings the rage out of you? Much like Alabama Governor George Wallace (Tim Roth) who is a monster! His constant efforts to maintain segregation in his state along with his condescending sarcastic tone is seriously frustrating! However, actor Tim Roth did a pretty good job agitating the audience through his role as George Wallace. So, in a way, I guess it’s well done to him.

“You got one big issue I got 101!”

The appearance of Lyndon B. Johnson (again, played by British actor Tom Wilkinson), gives a certain political dimension. He almost puts the line between the political realism and the fight to make the idealistic view of equality a reality. He often speaks about how he has several issues to deal with as a president, so the passing of more Civil Rights legislation is a minor issue and can be put off for a couple years. In simpler terms, he was an idiot. But without going too much into the history itself let’s get back to this movie. I want to quickly note that as the movie rolls on you can literally notice how many American characters are actually played by British actors (Oyelowo, Ejogo, Roth and Wilkinson). In addition, the entire lighting for this film was quite dark, not misty or foggy, just dark, as if it were representing the intensity of the struggle, or they were just trying to make it look a little more old fashioned. Either way, the lighting gave you a sense of sorrow and even despair. Your emotions are guaranteed to run high once you watch this movie, tears of sadness, anger and happiness, all rolled up into one. You must not miss out on this movie. As I conclude this review I’d like to leave you with this…


“Those that have gone before us say no more, we’ve come too far to turn back now!”
We can still make a change!



Marlon Palmer

Thanks Christine we feel proud to have our young people embrace important moments in history and espouse their thoughts and feelings to the wider community – it is for all black people to know and appreciate what has gone before so people of an African descent today can be afforded the opportunities they now have!





David Oyelewo Undoubted Shining Star

By Leslie Byron Pitt
Written: 04.03.15



In the last five years, the likes of Idris Elba (Thor), Gugu Mbatha-Raw (Belle), John Boyega (Star Wars: The Force Awakens) and Chiwetel Ejiofor (12 Years a Slave) have called attention to the wealth of black British actors making strong waves within the Hollywood system. 2014 helped continue the trend, with films such as Interstellar, A Most Violent Year and Selma highlighting the remarkable talents of David Oyelowo.

Oyelowo was born in Oxford, 1976 to Nigerian parents who both worked within the transport sector. At age 6, Oyelowo relocated to Nigeria and during his time there; Oyelowo discovered that his family was of royal lineage. He returned to England seven years later. Quoted in his BBC bio for Spy drama Spooks, it was during his Theatre Studies A-levels at City and Islington College, in which Oyelowo was inspired by a teacher to continue his dramatic pursuits.

David Oyelowo started his stage career in 1999 with the Royal Shakespeare Company, appearing in roles for plays such as Oroonoko and Volpone. His performance as Henry VI in 2001 had him awarded with Ian Charleson Award for Best Newcomer in a Classic Play. This landmark of colour blind casting, caused controversy in some media circles. In the book The Henry VI plays (by Stuart Hampton-Reeves and Carol Chillington Rutte), Oyelowo states on remembering a Daily Telegraph article which complained such casting “opens us to ridicule”. A Mail on Sunday Piece remarks: “I’m not sure you could have a black actor playing a monarch with such a familiar face, but with Henry VI it’s fine because your average theatre goer starts with a pretty blank slate.” A hilarious remark considering the west’s history of white washing minority characters (Laurence Olivier in Othello anyone?).

It is this role of Henry, however, that not only convinced his father that David had found correct career choice, such criticisms unsurprisingly foreshadow and consolidates Oyelowo’s feelings of strong roles for black British talent. The press interviews for Selma have highlighted Oyelowo’s forthright opinions on how race in the arts is viewed. That Oyelowo made his mark with this portrayal, only highlights his considerable talents further.

David Oyelowo became more of a household name due to his stint as doomed case officer; Danny in the BBC’s praised espionage series, Spooks (2002 – 2011). Playing alongside the likes of Matthew Oyelowo_SpooksMacfadyen and Keeley Hawes, Oyelowo spent two years on the highly popular show before bowing out to pursue other projects. Oyelowo found himself in leading roles such as Matt Wellings, in the critically acclaimed drama Five Days, in which he won the 2007 award for Winner of Best Actor in a Mini Series or Motion Picture for Television, Golden Satellite Awards. In 2008 he was cast alongside British actors Colin Salmon and Idris Elba in the Anthony Minghella directed pilot of The No 1 Ladies Detective Agency. The Botswanan set show, while award winning and enjoyed, unfortunately, never obtained a second series.

Oyelowo also starred in the 2009 television mini-series Small Island. An adaptation of Andrea Levy’s novel, which focuses on the diaspora of Jamaican immigrants during and after World War II. Oyelowo was nominated for Best Actor at the BAFTA television awards in 2010, for his portrayal of the unlucky but noble Gilbert Joseph.

Despite finding minor cinematic roles in the likes of Derailed (2005) and The Last King of Scotland (2006), it was 2011 which marked out new and exciting territory for the young actor. Oyelowo was cast as the selfish antagonist, Steven Jacobs in the surprise blockbuster hit, Rise of the Planet of the Apes. Often recognised as more noble characters, the role of Jacobs allowed Oyelowo to not only star in one of the biggest hits of the summer, but also allowed him to expand his range in a much pulpier type of cinematic feature.

2011 also saw Oyelowo take a small role as Preacher Green, in the successful civil rights drama, The Help. In Red Tails, the story of the Tuskegee Airmen, Oywlowo was allowed to broaden his range further with the “physically demanding” role of 1st Lt. Joe “Lightning” Little. In an article for blackflix, Oyelowo was quick to not only comment on how proud he was being able to take a role that belongs in the history books due to the Airmen’s role in desegregation of the American Armed Forces. Oyelowo also noted on the shortage of opportunities of an all-black leading cast, being able to star in a movie, which didn’t feel like a niche feature, solely aimed at the African American audience. Hollywood mogul George Lucas financed and produced the film himself after gaining no support from the Hollywood studio system, but in the end the film didn’t set the international box office alight, however, Red Tails helped reinforce Oyelowo’s board range of talent to Hollywood.

It was in 2012 in which Oyelowo, first worked with Selma director Ava DuVernay, in the Independent drama, Middle of Nowhere. Gaining strong reviews and positive recognition at the Sundance Selma_Ava_OyelowoFestival, the film was a chance for DuVernay to work with an actor she had long been a fan of. Oyelowo’s role in Middle of Nowhere found itself sandwiched in-between releases of Lee Daniels’ Southern Gothic tale The Paperboy and Steven Spielberg’s historical biopic Lincoln. Oyelowo’s small yet poignant role in Lincoln, as Ira Clark perhaps has one of the most resonant moments of the film. In his most touching scene, the young Clark is reciting one of Lincoln’s most famous addresses, to help highlight his knowledge and admiration of the man. The scene itself is one of the film’s strongest moments.

His role as Louis Gaines in 2013’s The Butler gained Oyelowo even more recognition (NAAC image award for best supporting actor in a Motion picture), however, it was 2014 that has proved to be the one of the highest peaks of David Oyelowo’s career. The actor found him starring in a small but droll role as an ignorant school principle in Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar as well as a cagey and corrupt DA in the subtly engaging A Most Violent year. Of course the crowning achievement is Oyelowo’s complex and rousing portrayal of Dr Martin Luther King in Selma. Despite his Golden Globe nomination, many found his lack of nominations to be a snub.

However Oyelowo’s cool, calm demeanour when approaching his role of King in interviews, as well as his upfront and intelligent engagement about race and talent range of black British actors, show that his words alone may provide more inspiration for young black actors, than an award. For Oyelewo we believe…. the sky’s the limit.

For The Love of Oscar: Our 2015 Report

Written by Graeme Wood



As the year’s major award ceremonies draw to a close it’s easy to see which films have been the clear winners and the losers. This year more than any other it seems the glitz and glamour of our awards ceremonies have been under attack for their lack of recognition and prize-giving to a slew of actors and films that appear to have been snubbed. While you could usually rely on BAFTA to recognize its home grown talent this year it bizarrely missed out on nominating Selma or its British star David Oyelowo but there was also a distinct lack of recognition for black and ethnic minority based talent from the UK.

As Oscars host Neil Patrick Harris ribbed in his opening monologue “Tonight we honour Hollywood’s Neil_Patrick_Harris_at_the_best and whitest. Sorry, brightest!” The host drawing attention to the controversy that has dogged this year’s nominations and awards, so concerned were the ceremony organisers that it seems they were anxious to fill the presenter’s roles with as may non-Caucasian faces as possible. Drafting in a number of more ethnically mixed presenters including; Kerry Washington, Eddie Murphy, David Oyeleow, Zoe Saldana and Viola Davis, in what appeared to be an effort to dampen the cries of a lack of diversity and snubbing.

While the Independent Spirit Awards earlier in the week had mirrored many of this year’s other award ceremonies; Birdman taking Best Picture, Richard Linklater taking Best Director, Michael Keaton taking Best Actor, Julianne Moore winning Best Actress, JK Simmons holding onto Best Supporting Actor and Patricia Arquette taking home Best Supporting Actress. They did however gift the Best First Screenplay Award to Justin Simien for Dear White People. Would Oscar go further and do the unexpected to surprise us with some new winners?

Well yes and no, Birdman led the evening taking home Best Picture, Best Director, Best Screenplay and Best Cinematography awards. The Grand Budapest Hotel took home a clutch of technical awards including Costume Design, Production Design, Best Original Score, Make Up & Hairstyling and Costume. The hotly contested Best Actor category was won by the UK’s Eddie Redmayne forEddieRedmayne The Theory of Everything, Julianne Moore continued her winning streak taking home Best Actress for Alzheimer’s drama Still Alice (due in the UK in March), JK Simmons deservedly took away Best Supporting Actor and Patricia Arquette walked away with another Best Supporting Actress win. Arquette won over the audience with her speech addressing it to ‘every woman who gave birth to every taxpayer and citizen of this nation”. “We have fought for everybody’s equal rights. It’s our time to have wage equality once and for all and equal rights for women in the United States of America”. It was the only win of the evening for Boyhood, a big award winner elsewhere, having been nominated in six categories. The other biggest losers of the evening were The Imitation Game picking up only 1 award out of 8 nominations and American Sniper picking up 1 award out of six nominations.

As was expected Big Hero 6 took home the Best Animated Feature award (The Lego Movie having cruelly been overlooked for nomination). And what of Selma, nominated in only two categories, Best Selma_CorineScott_MLKPicture and Best Song, the official excuse being the film had been released too late to be campaigned for successfully. Selma’s Glory written by John Stephens and Lonnie Lynn – better known as John Legend and Common- walked away with the Oscar for Best Song, also performing the track captivatingly live at the ceremony. During the intense, powerful performance Selma star David Oyelowo was visibly moved to tears and at the finale many of the Academy were on the feet in appreciation. Collecting his award Legend said; “We live in the most incarcerated country in the world…people are marching with our song, we are with you…March on!” Some were less impressed with Lady Gaga’s Sound of Music tribute however, Shonda Rhimes tweeting; ‘That was not okay. I mean, Idina is there. She is right there. RIGHT THERE. And oh dear God, Julie had to hear that,” The Scandal showwriter referencing both Julie Andrews and Idina Menzel who were in the audience. Billboard however, thought it was the second best performance of the night.

The Academy Awards are no stranger to controversy its perceived snubs dating all the way back to a lack of recognition for Charlie Chaplin’s City Lights and Modern Times films. Each year brings a new list of should have beens like Shawshank Redemption, Audrey Hepburn, Judy Garland, Spike Lee, Jack Nicholson, Ben Afleck and many more. Many, like myself, wonder how a film can be nominated in the Best Film category and yet the director not be nominated, this has happened many times and again this year with Selma nominated as Best Film but no nomination for its director Ava DuVernay.

So what is the worth of an Oscar Nomination and even a win? Do the awards signal industry recognition of talent and art, or are they a celebration of a critical or box office success? Certainly in terms of getting a nomination the prestige can provide a secondary bout of marketing and see the film resurface into theatres with a guaranteed boost in box office sales. This year’s BAFTA wins for The Grand Budapest Hotel, Whiplash and The Theory of Everything helped boost these films at the February UK box office. Similarly last year Gravity, The Wolf of Wall Street and 12 Years A Slave also benefited from their BAFTA nominations and wins.

Does the winning of an Oscar guarantee the actor offers of the best available roles and most prestigious films on offer? Well you only have to look at Halle Berry’s career for that answer, following her Academy Award win in 2002 for Monster’s Ball, which was seen as a major break through for black actresses at the time, her roles have consisted of mostly superhero sequels and forgettable horror thrillers. Similarly, Denzel Washington, who also won in 2002 for Training Day, can hardly have noticed any change in his career – although he still turning out an impressive and consistent body of work but not always getting the headline grabbing prestigious roles.

Hattie McDaniel the very first African American actor to win an Academy Award back in 1939 for Gone With The Wind found her career continually consigned to little more than bit parts and maid HattieMcDaniel_kushfilmsroles following her Academy win. McDaniel broke into movies after many years singing in choruses and working as an extra until David O.Selznick cast her as Mammy in the epic but troubled production of Gone With The Wind. She later found herself censured by many of her own race for continuing to play the stereotypical role of a menial in films and for not criticising Hollywood’s portrayal of Negros on the big screen. McDaniel remained ‘in love’ with Hollywood and acting as she later said; though her treatment at the time is now considered something of a scandal, The Awards that year were held at The Cocoanut Grove nightclub, part of the Ambassador Hotel, which then had a strict no-blacks policy, McDaniel was not allowed to sit with the rest of the film’s crew and was placed at a separate table near the far back of the room. Gone With The Wind producer Selznick had to call in a special favour just to have McDaniel allowed into the building. Her win led to her being pigeon-holed in stereotypical roles and the NAACP disowned her for ‘perpetuating negative stereotypes’. Following her death, in 1952, her Oscar which had been left to Howard University was deemed valueless by appraisers and later went missing from the school, her final wish – to be buried in the Hollywood Cemetery was denied her because of the colour of her skin. In 1944 she had this to say about her disappointing prospects following the Oscar win, “It was as if I had done something wrong”.

More recently Mo’Nique, who picked up Best Supporting Actress in 2010 for her performance in ‘Precious’, has complained that she’s lost out on several roles due to not campaigning for her award. She says Precious director Les Daniels has told her that the perception in Hollywood is that she is monique-precious-oscars‘difficult’ ‘tacky’ and as a result has been blackballed, losing out on several key roles that were offered then later withdrawn.

At the 2010 awards ceremony Mo’Nique wore white gardenias in her hair – just as Hattie McDaniel had done in 1940 when she picked up her Oscar. During her acceptance speech the actress thanked McDaniel ‘for enduring all that she had to, so that I would not have to”. In response to the criticism McDaniel faced for taking maid roles Mo’Nique had this to say: “Well tell me what other roles were available, because what she was; was an actress – and at the time, she wasn’t getting the roles that her white counterparts were getting. She was saying,’I’m an actress. When you say ‘cut’ I’m not (a maid anymore). “So I say to those people: know that woman in full before you judge.”

Les Daniels himself offered this statement on Mo’Nique’s interview: “Mo’nique is a creative force to be reckoned with. Her demands through Precious were not always in line with the campaign. This soured her relationship with the Hollywood community”.

A recent Los Angeles Times survey of the 6,028 Academy Award voters revealed that 94% of Voters are White, while 77% of those are also Men; only 2% of the voters were Black with another 2% Latino.

This year has seen a more centralised campaign to bring more diversity to the Academy. Black activist organisation ‘Colour of Change’ have launched an online campaign and petition for the Academy to disclose it’s make up of diversity numbers and accused the Academy of marginalizing Black art because the membership is overwhelmingly white. The campaign began largely because of the perceived snubbing of Selma particularly the lack of nominations for its lead actor and director.

The debate has been fuelled also by interviews given to the Hollywood Reporter by members of the Academy, an anonymous Academy member said;” What no one wants to say out loud is that Selma is a well-crafted movie, but there’s no art to it. If the movie had been directed by a 60 year old white male, I don’t think that people would have been carrying on about it to the level that they were. And as far as the accusations about the Academy being racist? Yes, most members are white males, but they are not the cast of Deliverance-they had to get into the Academy to begin with, so they’re not cretinous, snaggletoothed hillbillies. When a movie about black people is good, members vote for it. But if the movie isn’t that good, am I supposed to vote for it just because it has black people in it? I’ve got to tell you, having the cast show up in T-shirts saying ‘I can’t breathe’ – I thought that stuff was offensive. Did they want to be known for making the best movie of the year of for stirring up shit”. The Academy member went on to praise American Sniper, Birdman and The Imitation Game as being their picks of the year but felt Boyhood was less of a success; “If you told me when I saw Boyhood that it would win best picture-or even be in the running-I would have told you that you were insane. Watching it, I thought it was ambitious and a directorial triumph, but the kid was uneven and Patricia Arquette probably was sorry she agreed to let them film her age over 12 years”.

Another Academy Voter had this to say about this year’s crop of nominations; “Whiplash is offensive – it’s a film about abuse and I don’t find that entertaining at all. The Grand Budapest Hotel is beautifully made but its story just isn’t special. I didn’t think Selma was a particularly good film, apart from the main actor (David Oyelowo) and I think the outcry about the Academy being racist for not nominating it for more awards is offensive – we have a two term president who is a black woman (Cheryl Boone Isaacs) and we give out awards to black people when they deserve them, just like any other group. Birdman I didn’t get at all-I look around and its doing so well and I just don’t get it”. While another Academy member felt American Sniper had been entertaining, Birdman masterful, The Grand Budapest Hotel underrated, of The Imitation Game they said ‘it had it all; Nazis, gays, World War II. Nobody does this sort of movie better than Harvey Weinstein”. Of Selma the anonymous Academy member commented ‘I thought Selma was great but it just came out too late. And if the director (Ava DuVernay) suffered from anything, it was gender discrimination, not racial discrimination. This whole race thing was spun out of control by the press”.

In a recent interview Spike Lee also pitched in on the Selma controversy; “We don’t have to even use Selma as an example. We could use Do The Right Thing versus Driving Miss F*****ing Daisy. But Do The Right Thing wasn’t the only thing the Academy messed up. My point is; it’s not a new problem. And great art is going to prevail. The door (to black filmmakers) is not knocked down. It’s cracked open a little bit. I wish that door was wide open”.

Lee and Low Books recently published an infographic showing the make up of the Academy that proves a troubling lack of diversity, independent filmmaker Gina Prince-Bythewood prince-bythewood-gina-imagetold Lee & Low; “The numbers do not surprise me because very few Academy Award level films with no white leads are being greenlit. Until this changes the abysmal numbers will not change. The box office drives which films get greenlit. The hope is that with this year’s success of a variety of films with African American leads, Hollywood will be more open to taking chances.” Lee & Low published the infographic as part of their ‘Diversity Gap’ study series and have monitored a lack of diversity across the Emmy Awards, Tony Awards, the NY Times Top 10 Bestseller List, the children’s book industry and politics. “The lack of diversity across these various industries has been ‘disturbingly consistent’, the publisher wrote, “This is not an isolated incident, but a wide reaching social problem”

There is hope that with all the pressure that one day things will change (hopefully soon!)



Read Hattie McDaniel’s 1947 Hollywood Reporter Essay:

Read the full Hollywood Reporter interview with comedian/actress Mo’Nique:

Read the Hollywood Reporter’s interviews with Academy Members here;

View and support the Colour of Change petition here:

SELMA Out Today: Here is where You Can BOOK YOUR TICKETS


Find your cinema and book your tickets here:

In spring of 1965, a series of dramatic events changed the course of America and the modern concept of civil rights forever — as courageous marchers, led by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., attempted three times to carry out a peaceful procession from Selma, Alabama to Montgomery, Alabama on a quest for the basic human right to vote.   The shocking confrontations, the triumphant final march and the passage of the 1965 Voting Rights Act that followed are now an indelible part of history. But the vitally relevant, vitally human story of Selma – from the political battles in the halls of power to the grit and faith of people on the street to the private, inner struggles Dr. King faced – has never been seen on the movie screen until now.

Starring: David Oyelowo, Carmen Ejogo, Tom Wilkinson, Tim Roth, Oprah Winfrey, Common, Wendell Pierce, Tessa Thompson & Cuba Gooding Jnr.

Distributor: Pathe UK
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‘Intense, engaging, inspiring… Oyelowo gives one of the greatest performances you’ll ever see’ (Scott Feinberg, The Hollywood Reporter)

‘Oyelowo is magnificent… one of the best films of the year’ (Rolling Stone)

‘A scorching, full-bodied, flat-out great film… Oyelowo is electrifying as Martin Luther King… Tremendous’ (5 stars, Tim Robey, Daily Telegraph)

‘A triumph… Oyelowo’s performance as Martin Luther King is stunning’ (Baz Bamigboye, Daily Mail)

‘An astoundingly powerful piece of film-making… David Oyelowo is phenomenal as Martin Luther King. A film everyone should see’ (James Williams, Glamour)

‘Incredibly powerful… a deeply affecting inspirational movie’ (4 stars, Chris Hewitt, Empire)

Film Review: Selma

Written by Leslie Bryon Pitt






















For me, Director Ava DuVernay’s best piece of direction comes from shooting her subject Martin Luther King Jnr (David Oyelowo) from the back in a simple close up. The low angle shots of King while he makes his speeches are also powerful and illustrate his effectiveness as a public speaker. Nevertheless the shots from the back are the moments which made my exceedingly short, tightly curled hair stand up on end. We’re witnessing what King faced, almost seeing it from his eyes. More importantly, we’re not only “behind him” as audience members, we’re figuratively behind him as a force. As King marches, the film captures such a community’s sense. We come as one.

DuVernay’s craft has been under the scope as of late, due to her lack of nomination in the Academy Awards for best director. It’s a shame, but I pay those trinkets little mind. Yes, it’s one of the whitest Oscars we’ve seen in a long time, but the nominations are a symptom and not the cause. If the Sony hack did anything, it highlighted how blacks are considered in terms of cultural currency in Hollywood. I’m not entirely sure Selma needs that. The best movies never usually win Oscar’s anyways. When watching Selma I felt sure, no matter what happens to the film in terms of awards, the film would be seen, enjoyed and examined by its audience. As a film, it’s strong enough to do that.

Selma chronicles the plight of Martin Luther King during one of the most pivotal moments of the civil rights movement, the campaign to secure equal rights for blacks. King plans to demonstrate with an epic march from Selma to Montgomery, through the heart of the rural south. Which, despite recent actions is a still a time of segregation and tremendous unrest. The film opens with King obtaining the Nobel Peace prize in Olso, but is contrasted with the tragic bombing of 16th Street Baptist Church bombing in Birmingham, Alabama. This moment, which occurs suddenly during the opening moments pinpoints the peak of the violence and helps consolidate King reasons for the march.

The film delves deeper into the issues of such a troubled time. To illustrate the movements in time, we are treated to the FBI reports as they spied on King. We peak at heated dealings between King and the country’s president Lyndon Johnson (Tom Wilkinson). Both George Wallace (Tim Roth) and Malcom X (Nigel Thatch) appear and assume their positions. We witness the violence on the streets and the pressure in the offices and the weight bearing down on one man’s shoulders.

This is completely David Oyelowo’s film. His powerful display along with Paul Webb and Ava DuVernay’s thoughtful screenplay gives us a layered and mesmerising portrayal of King. Selma succeeds in a way that the likes of Lincoln (2012) does not. A man of faith but not saintly, King is portrayed as a flawed yet thoughtful man. Fierce in debate, but self-conscious about the path he wants his plans to take. Oyelowo infuses the films grand speeches with the power of a pastor, reminding us of just how strong King was as an orator. Some of Selma’s best scenes are when they show King as a man as opposed to the icon. Laughing and joking with his partners despite being in jail, sitting around dinner tables or on sofas while they shoot the breeze or plan the march. These moments illuminate Selma because as a film of this nature, it often feels that we do not see these images enough. Moments of black men looking and feeling real, as opposed to static figureheads or stereotypes. Oyelowo, who at one point saw this project hit the skids when it’s original director; Lee Daniels, quit the project, makes near every moment his time on screen count.

Selma is not perfect. From a narrative prospective, some of the dialogue feels flat, while the film starts to stroll during the later stages, losing some of the economy provided earlier on.


The film is also a great entry point into the history, but it’s not the history, with a broader scope of the surrounding elements being found in the likes of Spike Lee’s documentary 4 Little Girls (1997). If you’re not up with your knowledge, some characters will feel light until you’re informed fully of who they are during the final credits. One or two of the scenes feel a little trite and DuVernay’s decision to utilize modern hip-hop at the film’s end is understandable yet a jarring misstep.

Such stumbles, however, are mere scuffs on a shiny shoe. Elements which are easily forgiven with the power and emotion that DuVernay gives in other sequences. Moments such as the realisation of Kings Infidelity bring high volumes of tension. The film’s violence is not as explicit as 12 Years a Slave (2014), but the films period and its victims, remind us of just how recently these events occurred. The moment in which King must console the grieving father of Jimmie Lee Jackson is as sobering as it is heart-breaking.

Through all the furore of Ava not becoming the first black female director to be nominated, we’ve seemed to have forgotten the reason we watch films have never been about awards. Many complain about the awards season being a circle jerk, and yet every year we proclaim more outrage of the next perceived snub? Selma does what it needs to without the need for the trinkets and accompanying blurb. It’s smart filmmaking, which entertains, educates and illuminates. Try as hard as it might, the shine of a glittering statue should not blind us from this. In ten years’ time, I will be more likely to remember Selma and DuVernay’s filmmaking, then whoever wins an Academy Award. But if we really need the gleam of Oscar for some sort of material honour. We will wait to see who Selma inspires. Then, as quoted by King in the movie “We go again”.

Kushfilms.com review of Selma – a film we are proud to be marketing in the UK!

SELMA: Find out more about the production


Lyndon Johnson:
Meet me half way on this, Martin.

Martin Luther King, Jr.
I can’t.

Can’t or won’t?

I came here prepared to talk to you about people. People are dying in the street for this. Punished for wanting, for needing, to participate in the American political process. It cannot wait, sir.

Selma_WeMarchIn spring of 1965, a series of dramatic events changed the course of America and the modern concept of civil rights forever — as courageous marchers, led by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., attempted three times to carry out a peaceful procession from Selma, Alabama to Montgomery, Alabama on a quest for the basic human right to vote. The shocking confrontations, the triumphant final march and the passage of the 1965 Voting Rights Act that followed are now an indelible part of history. But the vitally relevant, vitally human story of Selma – from the political battles in the halls of power to the grit and faith of people on the street to the private, inner struggles Dr. King faced – has never been seen on the movie screen.

Ava DuVernay’s Selma, brings the power of all that went into creating that hard-won moment of long awaited justice to cinema with an uncompromising immediacy. The film chronicles a string of astonishing historical details, large and small — including the intense, adversarial relationship between Dr. King and President Lyndon Johnson, the troubling involvement of the FBI and the unbreakable spirit of ordinary men and women who sacrificed and united around voting rights. But what emerged from these stark details is a vivid tapestry of an American turning point in the making and the stirring journey of a man finding his way through doubts and daunting obstacles towards not just leadership but the togetherness required to make real change in the world.

Says DuVernay, a director who hails from the independent film world and whose family hails from Selma_Ava_DuvernayAlabama: “Selma is a story about voice – the voice of a great leader; the voice of a community that triumphs despite turmoil; and the voice of a nation striving to grow into a better society. I hope the film reminds us that all voices are valuable and worthy of being heard.”

Given the remarkable fact that no major motion picture to date has focused on any aspect of the life of Dr. King, nor on the voting rights movement, DuVernay felt there was a burning need for this story to be told. At the same time, she wanted to strip away the veneer of an untouchable icon and bring Dr. King to life as a flesh-and-blood man – a man with flaws and uncertainties but also with a fortitude and fire that was bolstered by the striving of people around him.

“I do find it surprising and worthy of conversation that, in the 50 years since Dr. King’s death, there has never been a feature film focusing on him as the protagonist. That’s a jaw-dropper,” says the director. “It’s kind of strange and unfortunate, but I am glad we are here now.”

While Dr. King’s story is central to Selma, DuVernay expands the story outward to the men and women, who played crucial roles in building, sustaining and carrying forward the movement. She wanted to lay bare not just these seminal events but also the rich personal dynamics behind those events.

“We tend to think of King as a statue, or a speech, or a holiday, but he was a man, a man who had complicated relationships, who was very human, and a man who died at the age of 39 fighting for freedoms we all enjoy. I think when you de-construct the myth of him, you realize that his inner strength is something that all of us have. If we could just tap into it, we could do great things,” DuVernay explains.

Paramount Pictures, Pathé and Harpo Films present Selma, directed by Ava DuVernay and written by Paul Webb, starring David Oyelowo, Tom Wilkinson, Carmen Ejogo, Giovanni Ribisi, Lorraine Toussaint, Common, Alessandro Nivola, Cuba Gooding Jr., with Tim Roth and Oprah Winfrey as “Annie Lee Cooper.” The producers are Christian Colson, Oprah Winfrey, Dede Gardner, and Jeremy Kleiner. The executive producers are Brad Pitt, Cameron McCracken, Diarmuid McKeown, Nan Morales, Nik Brower, Paul Garnes and DuVernay. The behind-the-scenes team includes cinematographer Bradford Young (Ain’t Them Bodies Saints, Pariah), editor Spencer Averick (Middle of Nowhere), production designer Mark Friedberg (Noah) and two-time Oscar® nominated costume designer Ruth E. Carter (Lee Daniels’ The Butler, Malcolm X).

The Dream of Voting Rights
On March 7, 1965, Americans watching Stanley Kramer’s Judgement at Nuremberg on TV were stunned as the news cut in with harrowing images of violence in the here-and-now at home. In Selma, Alabama, local and state troopers had just assaulted marchers seeking the equal right to vote for all Americans, resulting in scores of injuries and a portrait of 20th Century repression that shamed and angered many. It would become a watershed moment that thrust a century-long fight towards accelerated victory.

The right to vote was first guaranteed to black Americans (or at least black males) in 1870 with the passage of the 15th Amendment; but for nearly 100 years after, and for decades after suffrage, that right was systematically obstructed in many places across the nation. (Even now, voting rights remain contentious with portions of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 having been struck down by the Supreme Court in 2013 and new voter ID laws sparking heated debate over the impact on voter participation.)

By the early 1960s, things were particularly bad in portions of the South – especially in Alabama, which had become a flashpoint for civil rights battles since Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on a segregated bus in Montgomery. Throughout the state, black citizens applying to vote were repeatedly blocked by local registrars – known to give impromptu literacy and civics tests featuring absurdly difficult questions designed to fail all takers. Furthermore, widespread poll taxes discouraged the poor and penalized those who chose to vote even if they succeeded in getting registered. By 1965, there were counties in Alabama where not a single black person had voted in any election for the previous 50 years.

In Selma – where only 130 of 15,000 black citizens were registered – citizens began to fight back. The national civil rights group, Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee (known as SNCC or “snick”), started organizing in the area in 1963, but faced considerable resistance, particularly from Martin-Luther-Kingsegregationist Sheriff Jim Clark who utilized local posses to intimidate, arrest and flat-out beat up those engaged in voter drives. In January of 1965, Martin Luther King, Jr. – the young pastor who was becoming the nation’s most influential moral voice for non-violent struggle against racism — along with the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (a group of ministers leading non-violent boycotts, marches and sit-ins to protest segregation across the South) arrived in Selma to assist their growing movement.

In the preceding two years, Dr. King had given his momentous “I Have a Dream” speech in Washington D.C., just months before four innocent little girls were murdered in a Birmingham, Alabama church bombed in an act of white supremacist terrorism. Only a few months before arriving in Selma, King had won the Nobel Peace Prize and then been named Man of the Year by Time Magazine, which declared him “the American Gandhi.”

As soon as Dr. King arrived in Selma, tension was mounting from every angle. On the ground, demonstrators faced vicious treatment, and knew lives were on the line. In the White House, President Johnson was closely watching what he feared could quickly become a tinderbox. And for King, the expectations were enormous because this had all the makings of a defining moment – one in which all the political manoeuvring, negotiating and non-violent protesting he had been advocating for years might truly have a shot at accomplishing something profound, if only the people could be kept safe from harm.

Inspired by the history, British producer Christian Colson (Slumdog Millionaire), commissioned a screenplay from Paul Webb and joined forces with Pathé to fund the development and production. Colson teamed up with Brad Pitt’s company, Plan B Entertainment and producers Dede Gardner and Jeremy Kleiner (Twelve Years a Slave) to further develop the script and to find the right director – a process that took almost eight years.

“We’d been interested for a long time in Dr. King’s legacy and the legacy of civil rights not just as the work of one man but as a collective movement — and we lobbied very intensely to become involved back in 2007,” recalls Kleiner. “The fact that these events had never been dramatized in cinema was humbling … but also exciting. We always believed in this story as not just history but a living history that continues to have present-day meaning.”

It was the convergence of three people who finally turned the oft talked-about project into reality: Ava DuVernay, an up-and-coming director who won the Best Director Award at Sundance with her micro-budget film Middle of Nowhere; actor David Oyelowo, who felt a call to play Dr. King and had tracked the project for years; and Oprah Winfrey, whose passionate support brought things to fruition.

“There were any number of approaches you could take to this material,” says Dede Gardner, “but what set this group apart was that they really wanted to encompass the totality of the civil rightsoprah_oyelowo_duvernay_selma_premiere_2014 movement, with Dr. King at the helm but not at all alone. He was supported by and sharing these experiences with a group of people – and it was important to show there were also fractures in this group. When the stakes are life and death, as they were in Selma, people are willing to go down fighting for what they believe is the right approach. Movements are born of these important debates. You need that conversation and analysis to make something happen. So this group brought a real focus on that, and also on the fact that the movement involved women and was not just the domain of men. There was also a drive to look at King as a genuine human being with doubts and anguish and dread as well as conviction, faith and command.”

When Oyelowo worked with DuVernay on Middle of Nowhere he intuitively felt DuVernay was the director who could give the material the fresh insight for which he’d always hoped. “I really mean it when I say this woman is a genius,” he says. “Her ability with story, just the way she is able to get under the skin of who we are as human beings, is so powerful. And the fact that her family is from Lowndes County, Alabama, literally from the country between Selma and Montgomery, means this history is in her DNA. You can feel that.”

For Oyelowo, the fact that DuVernay is a woman was another reason to champion her. “Even within the civil rights movement women were marginalized. They were just as talented, just as fervent about the injustices of the day, they sacrificed just as much if not more, but they haven’t been celebrated as heroes. So for me, for a black woman to be at the helm of this story felt absolutely right.”

Around the time that Oyelowo encountered DuVernay, he also got to know Winfrey while the two were starring together in Lee Daniels’ The Butler, and he told her of his dream of playing Dr. King. “I had recorded myself doing the ‘Mountaintop’ speech, and I showed it to her just to see what she Selma_Film_Oyelowothought, and from that moment on she was obsessed,” he remembers. “She said ‘we need to figure this out.’ Then one day I called her and said let’s turn this energy into something real — do you want to join us on this? She said I’ll do whatever I need to do. And that was rocket fuel. From that moment on, things geared up.”

Winfrey ultimately could not resist the opportunity to help DuVernay and Oyelowo tell this story, especially now. “The reason I said yes to this movie is because I think you cannot know where you’re going as a people unless you know where you’ve been,” Winfrey says. “That adage that says we stand on the shoulders of some mighty folk is something I’ve lived my whole life. I’ve carried the voices of Sojourner Truth and Fannie Lou Hamer, and also the many thousands who marched and prayed and believed and suffered, hoping that there would be a better day – those who never imagined we could have the life that we now do have, with the ability for many to rise to your greatest self.”

She goes on: “The thing that’s really most exciting to me is that Selma is not just about Martin Luther King, but very much about all the people who made his three months in Selma possible. It’s a people’s story. King was able to do what he did because he had these people behind him. There was no one else like him obviously, and he was an amazingly charismatic, spiritually driven, motivated leader, but he still couldn’t have achieved these things without the people who stood beside him.”

The producing team was ecstatic to have Winfrey join the team. “It’s a treat to work with her,” says Gardner. “She can seem otherworldly from afar, but when you meet her, she’s a consummate human being, a supportive person, a realistic person and a genuine partner. She was with us the whole way reviewing casting tapes, watching dailies, talking about cuts and weighed in on every aspect of the production. It’s obviously a story that she’s personally very passionate about and you can feel that. And then to have her grace the film with her performance as Annie Lee Cooper was the icing on the cake.”

After spending time with DuVernay, Winfrey came away ready to have her back through the challenges of the production. “I’ve never seen anyone with the kind of intense, passionate, wilful force, and clear direction Ava has. On set, she creates a calm space where you can feel everybody working at their highest level while creating that sense of synergy with each other. The whole project took on her energy.”

That energy, born of a commitment to a higher legacy, felt like something unusual in dramatic film-making to many of the cast and crew. Summarizes Oyelowo: “With this film I can genuinely say that there was an overriding feeling of service. All of us, cast and crew were there asking each day: how can we serve this incredible community who put their lives on the line for the privileges we now enjoy?”

Ava’s Approach

Though she would be making her first big-budget feature film Ava DuVernay approached Selma with the ambition and vision of a director who felt a magnetic pull to tell this story deep down in her bones.

For DuVernay, the events of 1965 literally hit home because her family hails from Alabama, and she spent summers there as a young girl while growing up in Compton. “My father is from a small town called Hayneville in between Selma and Montgomery,” the director explains. “That’s part of why this story captured me. Previously, I’d been primarily interested in contemporary images of people of color, but when this story set in the past came into my life, it really took over my imagination in a very unexpected way. And I’m happy it did. It honours the people of Selma, but it also represents the struggle of people everywhere to vote.”

Selma underlined for DuVernay how the mere ability to vote can change and uplift communities. “The process that we call justice in this country is directly connected to the right to vote,” she observes. “We often take for granted what voting enables us to do – but one of those things is to sit on a jury. So if you are black in 1960s Alabama and intimidated to the point that you can’t even register to vote, that means that you can never sit on a jury to gain justice for yourself or for others like you. The degree to which the right to vote affects the everyday life of people was something I’d never fully processed until I got into the research for Selma.”

Intensive research was a necessity, yet DuVernay was searching for more than facts. She wanted to dig into the human centre of the story. Her approach was distinctive: going for a restrained realism that allows the audience to really see the hidden relationships and emotions on the underside of the events.

The film would dig deep into the hearts of, and the community forged by, all the men and women involved. Structured around FBI surveillance reports – the FBI followed Dr. King’s every move, resulting in a 17,000 page file that traced both the banal and decisive moments of his life — the final screenplay tracked events from the 1963 Birmingham church bombing through the signing of the Voting Rights Act in August of 1965. It also took a kaleidoscopic view, moving through every layer of society, from the Presidency to Selma housekeepers, recognizing all as connected.

This breadth left the final screenplay open to a multiplicity of interpretations, which excited the filmmakers. “You could read Selma as a story about how governments can sometimes be pushed to act in moral ways. Or it could be said it’s a story about protest as a fact of life that is tough and unglamorous,” says Kleiner. “It might be an ode to the brilliant strategies and tactics of this group of civil rights leaders. Or it could be a story about the struggle to overcome the enduring doctrine of white supremacy. It’s complex and it doesn’t have one meaning – it’s a story that could feel relevant at any point in history.”

DuVernay says she tried to hew to the essence of the events as people who were there remember them. “My approach was to tell the truth as best we could, because the actual facts of what happened, the actual people who were there, are more fascinating than anything you could make up,” the director says. “There are no composite characters in this film. Everyone you see in this film really lived, really struggled, really did these things. They are so compelling that there was no reason to make anything up. I leaned into the idea that my role was literally just to be a teller of their tale. I felt I was a translator just trying to get into the inner being of these men and women.”

At the same time, she sought a visceral immediacy to connect with today’s audiences. “Sometimes you can get dragged down by a historical drama, but this story is also contemporary. It’s of now. It’s really about something universal that applies to people of different genders, races and religions. We’ve all been made to feel barriers at some time – and this is a film about people triumphing over barriers.”

Having multiple civil rights leaders from that time – including Congressman John Lewis and Ambassador Andrew Young — participate was a source of inspiration. “Just to stand next to people who were so heroic was moving,” she recalls. “When you see John Lewis walk in and ask for a JohnLewisCoke, you think, ‘wow, he is just a regular man who did this extraordinary thing.’ And that was very important, because the more you realize these heroes were just like us the more you see how amazing what they did was. If you hold them at a historical distance, you can’t really feel that. But when you bring them closer, as we try to do in the film, that is when you see the greatness of what they accomplished.”

On set, DuVernay created a familial atmosphere in which to explore the characters. She says the ambience is important. “I believe we should not only try to create something beautiful on film but also have a beautiful experience while we make it,” she says. “I always said that when I made my own films that I would try to create a set I would have liked to be on, as a crew member or actor, where there are no barriers between people, no hierarchies. It seemed especially important on this film, because we are telling a story about community and unity. That was the goal and people really embraced it, and I think it shows in the work.”

DuVernay was also strengthened by Winfrey’s belief in her. “This woman is so consistently true to herself. She is generous, wise, funny, focused, smart, curious – and after all she’s done, she is still excited by new things. As an actress I found her to be very open and just ready to attack the material with vitality and vigour. And as a producer, she rolled up her sleeves, did really deep work on this project and it was extraordinary.”

The cast in turn was bolstered by DuVernay’s determination and clarity. “Ava is a phenomenon. She had an incredibly specific and strong vision that she stayed true to everyday — and yet she did all of this while remaining creatively open as a vessel and willing to hear ideas,” says Carmen Ejogo. “ThisAva DuVernay, David Oyelowo, Carmen Ejogo was such an epic undertaking, yet Ava always remained true to her independent spirit and her own aesthetic.”

Sums up producer Dede Gardner: “Ava’s mind and heart are such that she can be indie-minded when the circumstances call for it and she can be global-minded if that’s what the task requires. She’s an artist who ebbs and flows and bends and expands – and that elasticity was evident from the beginning. She had such personal stakes in telling this story – she felt it as an imperative and when the stakes are that high, it can create something universally big.”

A Human King
The Martin Luther King, Jr. seen in Selma is a complex man approaching not only the greatest, and potentially most dangerous, political battle of his life but also a personal crossroads. He’s made mistakes, he’s weary of battle, he’s watched his family suffer for too long – and all of this weighs on him as he tries to hold fast to his principles in the midst of the frightening violence and repression rising in Alabama.

Dr. King carries the kind of legend that has daunted many an actor, but David Oyelowo had felt an affinity towards him for years that drove him to seek this part. He might not at first seem an obvious choice. Oyelowo was born in Oxford, England and raised in England and Nigeria before moving to the U.S. in 2007. But he says the minute he read Paul Webb’s screenplay in that same year, he knew he would do anything he could to play Dr. King. “This role has been a seven year journey for me,” he notes. “But because of having all that time I have also had the chance to truly steep myself in getting to know all that I can about Dr. King, the movement and American history as a result.”

The more Oyelowo learned about Dr. King, the more he was determined to play him. He felt being British only gave him the distance necessary to see past the idealistic dreamer children know from history lessons, and go much deeper into his philosophy, faith and struggles. “I hadn’t grown up with Martin Luther King as a deified figure, so I felt a freedom to come at him more as just a man, more as a fully realized character,” he says. “Still, my admiration for him only grew enormously the more I learned.”

Oyelowo underwent a physical transformation for the role, packing on pounds and razoring his hair to match King’s familiar silhouette. But more so, he immersed himself in King’s expressiveness and in the art of charismatic speech-making at which Dr. King was one of the world’s acknowledged masters.

“I felt I could not do these speeches out of my own energy or whatever talent I have as an actor. I had to do as King had done and really ride the wave of a certain energy,” he describes. “I had to fully go there.”

At the same time, Oyelowo knew he had to find his own voice and not merely echo King’s instantly recognizable timbre. “It was a long process, but one of the things you can’t afford to do when you are playing a character like this is to fall into imitation or caricature. At the end of the day what people gravitate towards on the screen is a human being, not a statue. So I felt my job was to the find the blood and guts of this man – the heroism but also the weaknesses, the foibles. I wanted to find his voice and his physicality, but if people get the spirit of King from watching the film, then I’ve done my job.”

His research brought him into contact with a wide array of civil rights heroes, who helped shed light on the Dr. King most people have never seen. “One of the greatest privileges for me was spending time with Ambassador Andrew Young, who was very close with Dr. King. And the thing that surprised me is how much he talked about Dr. King’s sense of humour, what a prankster he was, how much he loved to laugh – and also how much these men did not feel they had the answers. He talked about the fact that they were just preachers, but they found themselves fighting these injustices that were there before them. They really weren’t these portentous people we might imagine. They were more muddling through, as young men do. But the important thing is that they did not shy away from the task at hand.”

He may have been young and riven by doubts, but the pressure on King was immense. He knew he was under 24/7 FBI surveillance and facing constant threats against himself and those he loved. As seen in the film, the FBI even famously sent him a cassette of sexual noises accompanied by a threatening letter that read in part, “the American public . . . will know you for what you are – an evil, abnormal beast,” in the hopes of damaging him psychologically. He was shaken many times, but he was never deterred.

Oyelowo constantly kept in mind that King was just 36 in 1965, through all these events. “He always had a gravitas about him, even at the Montgomery Bus Boycott at the age of 26,” the actor points out. “But it’s hard to get your head around the fact that he died at 39, and in all those images you see of him, he was in his 20s and 30s — yet he was carrying this incredible weight on his shoulders.”

DuVernay was moved by Oyelowo’s commitment to accessing Dr. King. “He has channelled something so true,” she says. “David works with his whole heart. He has a deep reservoir of emotion and he can go anywhere, do anything. He has his own ideas but he also knows how to trust. He is also very tuned into politics and history, and he wanted to share that in a way that everyone can feel like this is their story – so we shared that in common. As a director, you couldn’t ask for more.”

She adds: “When I first saw him step into the pulpit, it was all I could do to just hold it together. I knew how much it meant to him and how much it could mean to those who see the film.”

Later, when Congressman John Lewis visited the set, he too was deeply moved. The moment he saw Oyelowo in costume, he commented out loud: “Dr. King, it’s been a long time.”

The authenticity of Oyelowo’s performance took all the filmmakers aback. “The more you see King as a human being, the more it amplifies the enormity of what he did,” says Jeremy Kleiner. “It’s an incredible performance. And this role was deeply personal for David – he’s a person of faith and he felt so strongly connected to the character. There was a kind of a serenity to David that was humble, yet at the same time full of conviction and confidence.”

Kleiner recalls one particular moment when Oyelowo’s commitment and research came to fore with Selma-34-Tom-Wilkinson-and-David-Oyelowosubtle power. “There’s a wonderful moment when Dr. King first arrives at the White House to meet with the President, and you have these few seconds before they get down to business, just making small talk.

There’s no footage that we know of that shows how Dr. King behaved in what must have been a very awkward moment but David’s performance is so brilliant, because you can feel that weight on his shoulders, you can feel how he almost can’t contain himself and yet how he’s also trying to be a pleasant person to have tea with. In those 12 seconds, David brings a deep understanding of King’s psychology.”

The idea that Dr. King’s journey is part of a larger quest stretching back into history impressed itself upon Oyelowo, who also had a role in Spielberg’s Lincoln, reminding him of how long the battle to vote had been waged. “There’s a scene in Lincoln where I say the exact same thing to Abraham Lincoln as I say to LBJ in Selma. In January 1865, my character is asking if we will be able to vote and exactly 100 years later, I am still asking that same thing,” he points out.

At the same time, he couldn’t help but see how timely the film was when many victories are apparent but voting rights and racial discrimination are very much still in the headlines. “The events in Selma give you the groundwork for the America we now live in,” he observes. “Without King there would be no Obama. Without King there may have been no voting rights at that time. Without the movements of the 60s, almost certainly we wouldn’t have many freedoms we now enjoy. But I think you also get a sense of how high the cost was, and how tragic it would be if what was achieved is treated trivially or lost.”

Most of all, Oyelowo thinks it is the very idea of self-sacrifice that must endure. “For me, what was so incredible about this group of people is the fact that they were not superheroes, but that did not prevent them from doing heroic things. Their power was that they were operating out of love in the face of hate. Right now, we live in a world where there’s so much inhumanity, so to have a film that reminds us of the beauty of our humanity, the power of peaceful protest and that we do have a voice, I think is needed.”

Surrounding Dr. King in Selma are a group of equally vibrant civil rights leader — who DuVernay dubs “The Kingsmen” – brought to life in charismatic performances.

They include civil rights attorney Fred Gray, who represented Rosa Parks fresh out of law school, played by Cuba Gooding, Jr.; non-violent activist and de-segregationist James Bevel who was at Dr. King’s side through many of his most important actions and when he was assassinated in Memphis, portrayed by influential rapper and actor Common; Andrew Young, the young minister who would go on to a distinguished career in politics, a role taken by André Holland; the Reverend Hosea Williams, a minister and a scientist who became a leader of the SCLC, heading key demonstrations, played by Wendell Pierce.

The group also includes Bayard Rustin, a committed pacifist and civil rights activist since the 40s who was an influence on many young activists, performed by Ruben Santiago-Hudson; James Forman, who as a leader of SNCC pushed for more aggressive protest techniques, sometimes butting heads with Dr. King, played by Trai Byers; Reverend James Orange, who was arrested during a 1965 voter drive in Alabama and became a top aide to Dr. King, portrayed by Omar J. Dorsey; Reverend Frederick Reese, head of the Selma Teachers Association who first invited Dr. King and the SCLC to Selma, played by E. Roger Mitchell; John Lewis, one of the original Freedom Riders, chairman of the SNCC in 1965 and now a long-standing Congressman from Georgia, who is brought to life by Canadian actor Stephan James; and Dr. King’s close friend and fellow activist Reverend Ralph Abernathy portrayed by Colman Domingo.

Political Manoeuvres
Lyndon Banes Johnson, the 36th President of the United States, led the nation during some of its most dizzying years of social turmoil and change. He was initially the “accidental” President, thrust into the role after the Kennedy assassination, then won a landslide victory in the 1964 election. Ultimately, he would preside over the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and push for sweeping reforms to end poverty and inequality – but he was also associated with the unending war in Vietnam and became a target of counter-culture protesters looking for change to the status quo.

Early on in his presidency, Johnson began a little-known, complicated relationship with Dr. King – one that was at once adversarial and respectful. Without their collaboration, and all the savvy negotiating and tug-of-war it involved, it is unlikely the Voting Rights Act would have passed so quickly or even at all.

Finding an actor to play the pivotal role of Johnson was no easy task. Perhaps one the most colourful characters to ever be U.S. President, the tall, hulking Texan was a one-of-a kind, as famed for his coarse, unpolished way of speaking as for his mastery of political back-and-forth. But Oscar® nominated British actor Tom Wilkinson was intrigued because he says, “challenge is something I enjoy very much.”

Wilkinson evolved his own restrained reading of Johnson’s personality. “I thought it was very wrong to do an impersonation of LBJ,” he says. “Impersonations are so distracting, so when Ava told me that she wasn’t interested in an impersonation, that drew me. I wanted to show just enough of LBJ so you believe in him as a man.” He did watch footage of Johnson but notes, “In interviews and when the camera is rolling, he’s on his best behaviour, so you don’t always see that tougher side we now know he had.”

Coming from England, Wilkinson brought an outsider’s POV on what it means to be President. “I was able to come at it from a certain distance since the U.S. President doesn’t loom as large in my consciousness,” he explains. “LBJ was making decisions about things of great importance but he was also, after all, just a human being. Presidents don’t become these magnificent super-beings when they are elected. They are simply men doing the best they can under the most trying circumstances imaginable.”

Much as playing Johnson was a draw, Wilkinson says it was Selma’s story of how ordinary people can spark transformative change that deeply moved him. “This is a story about the core not only of democracy but of human rights. Around the world, voting rights and human rights remain huge issues and I think the more people are reminded of it, the more it renews itself in people’s conversations.”

Selma also brings to light the man who tenaciously pushed LBJ to collaborate with Dr. King: Lee C. White. Known for his unimposing style, but also his championing of integration, White served as a consultant on civil rights for both Kennedy and Johnson – and was instrumental in driving Johnson to address Congress directly after the events of “Bloody Sunday.” Giovanni Ribisi says he took the behind-the-scenes role of White because he was moved by the people in the story – and those telling it today. “I’m an admirer of so many people involved in this project and it really came down to that,” he says.

White, Ribisi notes, was battling for a President’s attention while he was buried under an avalanche of national crises. “Lee was working for somebody in LBJ who had inherited a whole lot of problems. There were so many things going on but he managed to bring civil rights to the forefront,” he says.

Ribisi was especially exhilarated by Wilkinson’s performance. “There have been portrayals of LBJ where he is almost a comedic character, because he could be so eccentric. But Tom had a very specific and natural take on him. I think he really understood something about Johnson – that he was very conscientious about control and about his reputation. Ultimately, Johnson saw that the situation in Selma was only going to escalate tension across the U.S. without action – and the opportunity was there to act.”

One of the stoniest obstacles protesters faced was Alabama’s Governor, George Wallace, a very different kind of Southern politician from Johnson. Though he would later say he regretted it, Wallace at that time was a staunch, outspoken segregationist whose bigoted talk provoked tensions across the nation. In 1962, he ran on a pro-segregation platform and when he was elected overwhelmingly, gave an inaugural speech in which he announced: “Segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever.”

Despite his pandering to crass prejudice, Wallace was cast in the classic populist mould, and seen by many voters as a champion of the working class and an embodiment of Southern pride. He would go on to a long career in Alabama politics, serving as Governor four times and also running four times for President. (During the 1972 primaries, he was shot five times by a would-be assassin, leaving him paralysed.)

Taking the role of Wallace in Selma is Academy Award® nominee Tim Roth. Roth remembers thinking of Wallace as a monster growing up, but was not afraid of the role’s darkness. “I remember Selma_TimRoth_Governorseeing him on TV and being amazed by what was coming out of his mouth,” he recalls. “I had only ever thought of him as an indescribably bad guy so I thought it would be interesting to explore who he was further.”

He dove in completely, though he was acutely aware of how painful the words he was speaking could be to others. “I remember the first time I saw David Oyelowo, I was making an extremely racist speech and he was there watching in costume as Dr. King and it was just quite extraordinary,” Roth recalls.

But Roth says the importance of the story kept him focused on embodying Wallace as accurately as possible, in both his allure and his divisive politicking. “This movie is full of fascinating historical moments I had no idea took place,” he comments. “Ava has done her work so well that I think this film will stun people as it engages them. It’s an inspirational portrait of how you raise the consciousness of the world.”

Selma is in UK cinemas from the 6th February 2015

Kush Marketing ‘Selma’ which hits UK Cinemas 6th Feb

Selma: the Oscar nominated film (best Picture) is coming to the UK, and we are pleased to say once again Kush Promotions & PR the UK’s N0 1 Marketing/PR & Film Exhibition specialists have been called upon once again to support this release and bring it to the urban/black public of the UK.

After last year (2014 in case you’re still dizzy from Christmas), who would have thought things would carry on in this mode?

To explain last year was crazy and went by in a blur but there was a dawning upon Kush (all aspects of the business) and it was like been in a chauffeur driven car where you are just been taken where you want to go and given what you need and all you have got to do is do what you do best by doing what you love to do!

Last year we were called to work on: 12 Years A Slave, Starred Up, Half A Yellow Sun, Fruitvale Station, Gone Too Far & The Maze Runner – it was non-stop 4-week campaign marketing all last year – wow!

The year went by so quickly and now we are here in January 2015 and back with another sensational new lauded film – one that again lifts up the spirit and reminds us of what we are still fighting for each day as minorities here in the UK and also in the united states.

I hope you appreciate SELMA as I do and you also totally appreciate the rising director Ava DuVernay and the talent of Nigerian-British actor David Oyelowo – his performance as Dr. Martin Luther King is phenomenal!

Marlon Palmer (Kush Promotions & PR Director)

In spring of 1965, a series of dramatic events changed the course of America and the modern concept of civil rights forever — as courageous marchers, led by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., attempted three times to carry out a peaceful procession from Selma, Alabama to Montgomery, Alabama on a quest for the basic human right to vote. The shocking confrontations, the triumphant final march and the passage of the 1965 Voting Rights Act that followed are now an indelible part of history. But the vitally relevant, vitally human story of Selma – from the political battles in the halls of power to the grit and faith of people on the street to the private, inner struggles Dr. King faced – has never been seen on the movie screen until now.

Starring: David Oyelowo, Carmen Ejogo, Tom Wilkinson, Tim Roth, Oprah Winfrey, Common, Wendell Pierce, Tessa Thompson & Cuba Gooding Jnr
Distributor: Pathe UK

Released: Friday 6th February 2015