Ava DuVernay and David Oyelowo
Here's my piece for RogerEbert.com. I think it turned out pretty good don't you think? I think this could be the best one I've done.
This month, director Ava DuVernay made film history when she because the first black female director to be nominated for a Golden Globe for Best Director for her extraordinary “Selma.” No small feat since that also makes her only the third black director ever to be nominated for a Golden Globe as best director, male or female. And this follows on the heels of her becoming the first black women director to win the Best Director award at the Sundance Film festival for her previous film “Middle of Nowhere,” which she made for only $200,000. And she is currently a favorite to get a Best Director Academy Award nomination, making her again the first black female to ever do so. So Ms. DuVernay, one could say is used to breaking barriers and blowing away pre-conceived expectations.
But that does not mean that it’s gone to her head. As she was recently quoted in USA Today
"The "first" of it all is the bittersweet part. I'm certainly not the first black woman deserving of this. You can't tell me that since 1943 there's not been another black woman who's made something worthy of this kind of recognition. But for whatever reason it hasn't happened. The time is now. I thank them for recognizing Selma. I just hope … that we get through all the 'firsts,' that we can just get to the good stuff and that people can just make their work and move on from [that conversation]."
But despite the fact that in some measure she might be considered a latecomer as a film director compared to other directors, her whole life has been involved with films and filmmaking, starting as a little girl when she first met Roger Ebert when he was attending a rehearsal for the Oscars, which she spoke about so eloquently at Ebert’s memorial last year. After graduating in journalism at UCLA, she started working as a publicist at Fox before moving on to form her own movie PR firm DVD Media + Marketing on which her and her team worked on many films (including a stint where she worked as the publicist for “Selma” a few years back when it was in development with Lee Daniels attached to direct)
But it was a revelation that came to her one night on the set while working as the unit publicist on Michael Mann’s “Collateral” that she realized that she could be telling her own stories. After that, she began making her own film starting out with short films and documentaries and eventually her first feature film 2010’s “I Will Follow,” which she self-financed for $50,000. The film went on to acclaim and was shown at several film festivals, including the Chicago International Film Festival. That film was followed by 2012’s “Middle of Nowhere,” starring Emayatzy Corinealdi and David Oyelowo, and, during this time, she also co-founded the African-American Film Festival Releasing Movement, (AAFRM) which distributes black cinema into movie houses.
But with “Selma,” DuVernay has reached a new level and a wider showcase to display her amazing talents. And with recent current events in this country proving that the so-called idea that this country is in a “post-racial era” is very far from reality, “Selma,” which opens on Christmas Day in N.Y. and L.A. and in January in rest of country, could not have arrived at a more perfect and critical time. It proves the old adage that the more things change, the more they stay the same.
Oxford, England-born David Oyelowo has, in a few short years, become one of the most the sought after actors in films with stellar performances in recent films such as J.C. Chandor’s “A Most Violent Year,” “Lee Daniels’ The Butler,” “Lincoln,” “Rise of the Planet of the Apes,” among other films. But playing the demanding and risk-taking lead role of Martin Luther King in “Selma” proves that he is without question one of the finest actors of this generation. He was also nominated for a Golden Globe this month as Best Actor in a dramatic film and is an odds-on favorite to get an Oscar nomination for Best Actor as well
Recently, we had an opportunity to meet up with both Ms. DuVernay and Mr. Oyelowo while they were on the publicity tour for “Selma” and talked not only about the relevance of the film today but several other subjects as well including her touching remembrance of Ebert.