Ava Duvernay got a big shock Sunday night at the Ziegfeld before her premiere screening of “Selma.” In front of a really sold out audience, she received a standing ovation BEFORE the screening, just when her name was announced. Among the A list crowd on its feet: Aretha Franklin, Oprah Winfrey, Tyler Perry, Gayle King, India Arie, Audra McDonald, Bebe Winans, Ruben Santiago Hudson, as well as the “Selma” cast including Tim Roth, Tom Wilkinson, and Alessandro Nivola with “Newsroom” star and wife Emily Mortimer.
It didn’t hurt that also on his feet was Martin Luther King III, son of the famed civil rights leader, with his daughter. He’s a big fan of the film about his father.
After Paramount chief Brad Grey made an unusual opening speech about the movie, the crowd went wild for Duvernay and star David Oyelowo. The word had already spread: this may be the most important film of the year despite being snubbed by the idiots at the National Board of Review. Already on the AFI list of 10 best movies of 2014, “Selma” feels like a winner. Oyelowo most certainly will be nominated and may indeed win the Oscar for Best Actor.
Paramount threw a swanky party at the New York Public Library after the screening where no less an eminence than Harvey Weinstein was spotted congratulating everyone.
“Selma” is notable for more than a few things: introducing Martin and Coretta King as a glamorous young couple in Oslo, when Martin is accepting the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964 when he’s just 35 years old; shocking the movie audience right away into paying attention with the deaths of the four little girls in Birmingham, Alabama; and letting King via Oyelowo deliver his speeches with fiery oratory that actually shows who he was and why he was so revered.
Get ready because “Selma” is going to be BIG when it opens on Christmas Day. Oyelowo gives a masterful performance. There are plenty of terrific supporting players too including Carmen Ejogo as Coretta Scott King, Wilkinson as LBJ, Roth as the evil George Wallace, plus Lorraine Toussaint, Colman Domingo, Tessa Thompson, Wendell Pierce, E. Roger Mtichell, Common and Niecy Nash.