A movie’s coming about SelmaBreaking News
On a swampy afternoon in late June, the director Ava DuVernay stood not far from the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Ala., that haunted place where, President Lyndon B. Johnson told the country, history and fate met. She was instructing a group of white extras on all the ugly things she wanted them to yell at the several hundred black extras snaking across the bridge, part of a sizable army of cast and crew that had been gathered together for “Selma,” her new movie about the campaign for black voter rights.
That day, Ms. DuVernay was restaging Bloody Sunday, March 7, 1965, when the police violently attacked marchers trying to walk to Montgomery, where they would eventually hear the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s call out to the world: “How long? Not long! Because the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” A centrifugal force, Ms. DuVernay rarely seemed to stop moving. As she called “Action!,” and people and horses began to run, smoke flooding the air, it was thrilling to witness a female director bring this agonizing American story to life and, in the process, stake her own claim on our cultural history.
Ms. DuVernay, 42, belongs to what she calls “a small sorority” of black female filmmakers, who are part of another modest American sisterhood: female directors of any color. And with “Selma,” she has done what few female directors get the opportunity to do, which is go large — with politics and history — with a decent budget and serious muscle. Paramount Pictures is releasing the movie on Dec. 25, and the producers include Oprah Winfrey, who has a small role in the movie as an activist, and Plan B, Brad Pitt’s company. Four years ago, Kathryn Bigelow became the first woman to win an Academy Award as best director; Ms. DuVernay has a shot to become the second.
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