Should’ve Been a Contender: Ava DuVernay For “Selma”

For this Awards Season we’re looking back at the films, the actors and the directors who should have been a contender for the Oscars. Here’s Morgan Robert’s piece on why Ava DuVernay should have been nominated for “Selma”

By Morgan Roberts

Every year, the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) holds an annual award show honouring the best and boldest in filmmaking. And every year, there is an extensive discourse on who was snubbed or overlooked or incorrectly nominated. I have those opinions each awards season but there is one snub that still gets me: Ava DuVernay.

When her film “Selma” premiered in 2014, it was staggering to see the level of detail put into every aspect of that film. The history, the acting, the cinematography, the set design, and so on. But the direction and momentum of the film rested solely with DuVernay. She shaped a film unlike any other that we saw that year. It was her direction that cemented this film as one of the best from the previous decade and will ensure its importance not just in cinema but in historical education.

“Selma” is a triumph in filmmaking and the fact the filmmaker was snubbed is still the worst misjudgements by the Academy. DuVernay made a perfect film.

ava selma 2
David Oyelowo and Ava DuVernay in Selma (2014) © 2014 Paramount Pictures

Biopics are difficult. There are truths about individuals and those truths do not always match the perception by the general public. Martin Luther King Jr., while one of the most extraordinary people in American history, was a human being. DuVernay carefully paid homage to the hero while acknowledging the humanness of the man. Her film also introduced the general public to Freedom Fighters like Diane Nash, Amelia Boynton Robinson, Hosea Williams, Andrew Young, and John Lewis – who, yes, is a Congressman, but no, no one taught me about his involvement in the Civil Rights Movement.

DuVernay captures a moment typically glossed over in American history. But a moment so crucial to the Civil Rights Movement. After Freedom Summer in 1964 and the election of LBJ, people went back to their daily lives thinking racism was miraculously solved. As evident in the film, that did not occur. DuVernay highlighted the insidiousness of racism in the South, and the human toll needed to combat it. She takes you onto the literal frontlines of resistance. She does not shy away from the brutality endured by Civil Rights activists. She does not shy away from the tough conversation both within the movement and the pressures outside of the movement. DuVernay someone managed to balance the microcosm of this singular moment and the larger picture at hand in one film.

“Selma” is a triumph in filmmaking and the fact the filmmaker was snubbed is still the worst misjudgements by the Academy. DuVernay made a perfect film. Those are few and far between. Every frame has a purpose. Every moment feels poignant. It was the vision of DuVernay that made this occur. She created one of the most important pieces of cinema and her lack of recognition by her peers is disgraceful. I just hope that one day I can see DuVernay finally receive the recognition she deserves.


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