By Lindsey Bahr ,AP
LOS ANGELES — Ava DuVernay doesn’t like historical dramas �X especially those of the civil rights variety. Their conventions, their sentimentality, their lack of texture or edginess, and their insistence on either hero worship or takedown just aren’t her style.
It’s a wonder she ever considered boarding ��Selma�� in the first place. Not only is it one of the most important chapters in civil rights history �X having led to the passage of the 1965 Voting Rights Act �X it’s also one that’s still in the living memory of many (including her father).
Toss in the fact the project had been in development for years with a host of different directors, that it’s the first significant portrayal of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on film, and that DuVernay had mostly directed small independent features, and the whole feat becomes even more unlikely.
Now, it seems impossible to imagine the film with anyone but DuVernay behind the camera. With her confident direction, ��Selma,�� which opens wide on Friday, gives audiences a layered look at King, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and the campaign leading up to the historic 54-mile march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama.
On Jan. 15, DuVernay, a former publicist, may also make history by becoming the first African American woman ever to be nominated for a best director Oscar.
And yet she always seems to be deflecting praise with a self-deprecating aside or by refocusing it on one of her collaborators. At the first public screening of ��Selma,�� after a lengthy standing ovation from the jam-packed theater, DuVernay still took the opportunity to poke fun at her own job qualifications, joking that she was ��more of a black indie hipster romance kind of gal.��
Ultimately, her friendship and trust with the man who would be stepping into King’s shoes pushed her to the project. ��I was like, well, I’ve got Dr. King and I know he’s amazing. From there, we’re just telling a story about people,�� she said of star David Oyelowo.
To portray Dr. King, in addition to a dramatic physical transformation, the UK-born Oyelowo would certainly need to lose the British accent.