Film, Ferguson and a new world order.
Ms. Ava DuVernay, the first black female director to be nominated for a Golden Globe Award, had no way of knowing that Ferguson was going to happen when she ventured into making her newest film, Selma, which took only thirty-two days to complete.
She also wasn’t expecting the killing of Mr. Michael Brown Jr., to trigger a widespread cultural shift that would mirror, in a lot of ways, scenes from her 127 minute film. But since it did, and her artwork is imitating life, Ms. DuVernay’s biggest fear has been averted, at least for the moment.
“My greatest fear is to make disposable entertainment,” she tells me during an interview at the Ritz Carlton hotel in Center City Philadelphia, hours before a screening of the film in Old City.
Ms. DuVernay’s goal with Selma – and I would assume this is the case with all her films – isn’t to make people feel anything specific, but just that they feel something.
I’ve seen the movie twice now, and I certainly felt something, more so the first time I screened it, though the second time was just as powerful.
As a journalist whose been covering nearly every anti-police violence protest in Philadelphia since grand juries decided not to indict the murderers of Mr. Brown and Mr. Garner, the sounds of chants from activists, racist remarks from passer-byers and orders yelled by police are stuck in my head. And when I closed my eyes a few times during the film to avoid the brutal scenes, I heard the same sounds … the same words … and I felt the same feeling.
“To have a piece of art that meets this cultural moment and adds to the conversation is a honor,” she remarks, adding “I’ve never seen a time like this in my adult life; it really feels thrilling to be in this cultural moment.”
In NYC last Saturday during the national Day of Resistance, Ms. DuVernay witnessed a massive march taking place on the streets. But when she looked deeper, what she saw was another scene from her movie playing out before her very eyes.
After protesters in the movie were brutalized by police for trying to march into Montgomery, Alabama, Dr. King issued a call to action to anyone who wanted to take a stand against injustice. A lot of white people … a lot of white clergymen locked arms with the Negro people of the South and demanded justice.
“I feel the energy is shifting from it (police violence) being a black problem, to it being everyone’s problem,” she said, referring to how diverse the crowd was that marched throughout the streets of NYC last weekend.
Saddened due to the “horrible breaking of black bodies by police aggression,” yet inspired by the “people-led movements,” Ms. DuVernay reminds me—and by proxy, the world—that along with activism, there needs to be a “clear demand” to lawmakers and someone who can articulate the ask in the “halls of power” as eloquently as her subject, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Thanks for reading. Until next time, I’m Flood the Drummer® & I’m Drumming for JUSTICE!™
Photo: AP/Paramount Pictures