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On Saturday, at the Urbanworld film festival in NYC, Director Ava DuVernay held an exclusive panel that debuted two clips from her upcoming film, “Selma.”

“Selma” tells the story of the three month period in Martin Luther King’s life when he lead the campaign that eventually changed the country, and the world, forever. But what separates “Selma” from being another typical historical drama is that this film goes deep into the psychology and the humanity behind the events that happened, and how they happened. It explores how it affected and what it cost Dr. King (and everyone close to him) to have led a movement such as that.

Ava DuVernay was joined at the panel with star David Oyelowo, who played Dr. King. He literally transformed himself into Dr. King, not only gaining weight and shaving back his hairline for the role, but he says he also felt had a spiritual connection to him as well. The hard work obviously paid off, as after the two clips rolled, the crowd burst into thunderous applause for his performance which moved Oyelowo to tears. He said of his acting on the film, “I was obsessive in my pursuit of the truth.”

On the subject of truth, Ava DuVernay was also interested in portraying the human story behind Martin Luther King and that particular period of his life. She remarked, “I think that I’ve been somewhat allergic to black historical dramas in the past, just in general I feel a distance from them. In some ways, when I’m watching, I feel distant from what’s happening.” “Selma” was originally a blacklisted script written by Paul Webb, but once Duvernay became director, she rewrote it to fully flesh out the characters and make them more relatable and human, flaws and all. (The blacklist, as Duverynay clarifies, is “this phenomenon in Hollywood of ‘Gotta get your script on the blacklist!’… if your script lands on the blacklist, all the agencies are trying to get their clients on the blacklist, so it’s a big deal.”)


The film is produced by Brad Pitt’s production company, Plan B, and Oprah Winfrey. As Oyelowo and Duvernay explained that it was really Oprah that pushed for the movie to be made and who was with them every step of the way. Duvernay explains, “When I see Oprah producing a movie, I think oh, she just puts her name on the movie and then she’s on David Geffen’s boat. But she calls, texts, sits in on meetings about the minutia of the insurance, bond, and the hair color on the–whatever I was thinking about she was available to us, whatever we weren’t thinking about she was bringing up.”

The movie will open in New York and LA on Christmas Day, and everywhere else in January. recorded the panel. You can watch it below: