“Selma” will not be released by Paramount Pictures until December 25, 2014, but Urban World Film Festival attendees were treated to a sneak peak of the film yesterday. 

Starring David Oyelowo, Carmen Ejogo, Tim Roth, Lorraine Touissant, Common, Giovanni Ribisi, Andre Holland, Colman Domingo, Wendell Pierce, Tessa Thompson, Keith Stanfield, Stephan James, Alessandro Nivola, Tom Wilkinson and Oprah Winfrey, “Selma” chronicles Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s historic struggle to secure voting rights for all people – a dangerous and terrifying campaign that culminated with an epic march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama.

The UWFF event featured a Spotlight Conversation on directing with Festival Alumni Filmmaker AVA DuVernay and “Selma” star  David Oyelowo. We spoke with both of them on the red carpet exclusively.

Ava DuVernay


Can you tell me about how you got involved with this project?


Ava Duvernay: Well, the lead actor, David Oyelowo who plays Dr. King actually introduced me to the project. He had been attached for a while and we had worked together on another film, so he introduced me to the producers and the rest history!


So was the rest of the cast already set in place?


AD: No, only him! He was already on board, and he brought me on board and that’s how it happened!


Can you tell me about the casting process then? Because you have so many great actors together in one film!


AD: It was a standard casting process, I mean you have people in mind that you think would be incredible for the part and you go out to them and share the script with them, and the ones that are meant to be in the film say yes, and then you make the movie! So we were really really fortunate that a lot of really really wonderful actors were attracted to the material.


What attracted you to this material?


AD: It’s a great story about a great hero. And not just a hero for black people, but a hero for American people, a hero for citizens of the world … anyone who cares about equality and human rights. So how can you not fall into the romance of that and the promise of it? So that’s what we focused on.


David Oyelowo


Can you tell me what it was like to play such an icon?


David Oyelowo: It was an incredible experience really, because as you say he’s an icon. But what was even more of an honor for me was to get to show the man behind the icon, the man behind the phrase “I have a dream” to reveal that human being to the world.


So did you have to do a lot of preparation for this role?


DO: Yeah, you can’t play someone like  Dr. King and not go and do your homework. So yes, there was the basic preparation that has to do with the research, that has to do with the physical transformation. But also, there was a spiritual exchange I felt took place as well. You can’t play someone like him without having to pay the cost spiritually.



And what was it like working with Ava? 


DO: Well, I absolutely adore Ava. I did a film called “Middle of Nowhere” with her, and I completely fell in love with her as a director and a person on that film. So it was just   a  real privilege to get to play this kind of role with someone I love and trust.