It’s been an eventful week for Paramount’s big awards contender, Selma, the Martin Luther King Jr. drama directed by Ava DuVernay (Middle of Nowhere). First a widely praised trailer premiered (and neatly asserted itself with plum placement in front of Paramount’s Interstellar) and then a planned first peek of thirty minutes of the film was set to screen at the AFI Fest in Hollywood. Well, scratch that, as it looks like Selma will premiere in its entirety at the festival, marking a major coup for AFI Fest and a big wave of buzz for a movie hoping to make a strong impression with the Academy.
For a long while, Selma has seemingly been waiting in the wings with very little to go on except for its planned Christmas Day release date. Its showing at AFI Fest was going to be thirty minutes of footage since the film just finished production this past summer and has been in the midst of post-production ever since. However that all changed today when DuVernay took to Twitter, along with Oprah Winfrey, who co-stars and is one of the producers of the film, announcing that the film is locked and can be screened in its entirety on Tuesday night. That being the case, it will mark the world premiere for the movie and the third such premiere that AFI Fest can boast this year, alongside J.C. Chandor’s A Most Violent Year (which opened the festival), and The Gambler starring Mark Wahlberg.
With a screenplay by first-timer Paul Webb, Selma focuses on the 1965 voting equality campaign launched by Martin Luther King Jr. (played by David Oyelowo from Lee Daniels’ The Butler), culminating with the historic march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama that resulted in President Johnson signing into the law the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The impressive ensemble cast includes Carmen Ejogo (Sparkle), Cuba Gooding Jr. (Jerry Maguire), Alessandro Nivola (American Hustle), Tom Wilkinson (In the Bedroom), Tim Roth (Pulp Fiction), Tessa Thompson (Dear White People), and Lorraine Tousssaint (Orange is the New Black).
The premiere of Selma is still scheduled for 6PM at the Egyptian Theater in Hollywood, though AFI itself hasn’t yet confirmed on its website that the film will be screened in its entirety. Afterwards a discussion is planned with DuVernay, Oyelowo, Winfrey, and producers Dede Gardner and Jeremy Kleiner (the latter two won Oscars for producing 12 Years a Slave). Also curious is the fact that AFI has a planned secret screening directly following the premiere of Selma, however reports hint that another title (Deadline makes a suggestion it might be Clint Eastwood’s American Sniper) will fill that slot. Selma opens in limited release on Christmas Day with wide expansion slated for January 9, 2015.