Review: 'Selma'


[vc_row][vc_column width="2/3"][vc_column_text disable_pattern="true" align="left" margin_bottom="0"]In 1965, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. led the Southern Christian Leadership Conference to Selma, Alabama to protest the state's suppression of black voters. The struggle that emerged between Dr. King, Alabama Governor George Wallace and President Lyndon B. Johnson – not to mention thousands of American citizens who were swept up in the proceedings – is recounted in Selma, a brilliant historical drama that will bring tears to your eyes and an aching to your heart. The film weaves the Selma-centric narrative around a series of heated conversations between Dr. King (David Oyelowo) and President Johnson (Tom Wilkinson). While hundreds of African-Americans protest and march for their freedom in Alabama, Dr. King implores President Johnson to create legislation that eliminates the legal loopholes racist Southerns and Governor Wallace (Tim Roth) have been enforcing to keep black voters from the booths on Election Day. Despite some controversy over the accuracy of these interactions, they're an excellent framing tool to emphasize just how high Dr. King must aim to have the dreams of his people realized. This year has given us numerous films where talented actors portray historical figures (Alan Turing, John du Pont and Stephen Hawking among them) but Oyelowo stands alone as Dr. King. This is the first leading role for the English actor, and he embodies Dr. King with the dignity you'd expect and a passion few others could match. The booming speeches he delivers from churches and courthouse steps alike are nearly as rousing as the real thing; he also allows for some quiet, contemplative uncertainty to creep through, bringing doubt and hesitation to a man who could've easily been played as some sort of all-knowing superhuman. Oyelowo's Dr. King never feels larger than life; he's just the best of us, a real person with issues who was granted the intelligence, the patience and the fervor to galvanize millions and change the world. The cast is packed with little-known African-American actors and actresses – minus Oprah Winfrey, who produced and appears in several scenes – which makes embracing their journey even more accessible. They dip into their roles with ease, especially Stephan James as young activist and future Congressman John Lewis, creating an instant camaraderie that envelopes us even deeper in their suffering and eventual triumph. Selma doesn't waste time delving into each character's motivations; their purpose, in life and in the narrative, is to support Dr. King. It's a stronger film for it. Director Ava DuVernay has created an uncompromising powerful work of art that forces its audience to pay witness to a series of terrible atrocities. No punches are pulled; the attacks on Dr. King and his associates are presented as brutally as possible. Every thwack from a club to a head reverberates loudly; every kick sticks in your stomach. And they should; these were horrid acts committed by shameful, violent people. There are no gray areas in Selma, nor should there be; there's equality and ignorance, right and wrong. By focusing on a moment in Dr. King's life rather than the whole, writer Paul Webb allows us to examine the man in a detailed and nuanced fashion. His flaws – a rocky marriage with wife Coretta (Carmen Ejogo), a bit of hubris, his occasional fears about pressing forward – are presented without flinching. We're given a slice of the pie that's meant to both inspire and forebode; we all know how the story of Dr. King ends. Selma is a celebration of what he accomplished, but it's also a reminder of how much is left to do. Despite the Herculean efforts of a brilliant, unique individual and his passionate devotees, we're reminded that the pain and suffering of the 1960s persists to this day. At a time when racial strife is everywhere, Selma is practically required viewing. The snippets from speeches delivered by Dr. King still ring true today: Condemning acts of violence carried out by police officers who are meant to protect and serve, denouncing a society where a vast financial divide is justified by turning all vitriol towards an easily attacked, disenfranchised group of people. It reminds us of our past and illuminates our present; it is filmmaking at its finest. [/vc_column_text][/vc_column][vc_column width="1/3"] [vc_column_text disable_pattern="true" align="left" margin_bottom="0"][mk_fancy_title tag_name="h2" style="true" color="#393836" size="14" font_weight="inhert" margin_top="0" margin_bottom="18" font_family="none" align="left"]Details:[/mk_fancy_title]

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  • Directed by: Ava DuVernay
  • Written by: Paul Webb
  • Starring: David Oyelowo, Carmen Ejogo, Tim Roth, Tom Wilkinson
  • Runtime: 127 minutes
  • Release date: January 9, 2015

[/mk_custom_list] [mk_fancy_title tag_name="h2" style="true" color="#393836" size="14" font_weight="inhert" margin_top="0" margin_bottom="18" font_family="none" align="left"]More reviews from this author:[/mk_fancy_title] [mk_custom_list style="48" icon_color="#00c8d7" margin_bottom="30" align="none"]