With MLK day coming in a couple of weeks I thought it best to review the inspiring film Selma (2014) which was directed by Ava DuVernay. After hearing all of the rave reviews that this film garnered from various critics and all of the awards it has received, I had extremely high expectations for this film and my expectations were met and even surpassed. Selma. Selma. Selma. This film is not just a simple summary of Martin Luther King’s historic march, but rather a look into the conflicts below the surface that history has tended to forget about. The performances from Tim Roth to Carmen Ejogo to Tom Wilkinson were all inspired and tremendous, but David Oyelowo stole the show. The Cinematography in this film was also stunning, the way the camera was able to capture all of the horror of the beatings and all of the glory of the triumph at the end of the film was terrific.
First of let me say that Ava DuVernay does a brilliant job leading the direction of this film. Even in the moments that aren’t packed with smoldering corpses or police officers mercilessly beating old women, she is able to convey the deep intensity and significance of all that occurred during that historic time. After the occurrence (just 10 minutes into the film), of one of the most horrific and surprising scenes in any film this year, the viewer knew that they are not in for just another cliché civil rights film. The little things are where this film shines the brightest in. The focus on the conflicts between the different civil rights organizations (CRO) was a bold move by DuVernay but one that made this film original and mesmerizing. People have a tendency to think that everyone who fought for civil rights were united hand-in-hand marching with each other, this film proves that thought wrong, by showing how different CRO’s were at times downright mean to one another when it came down to the question of, “how can we change this country?” This film also does a brilliant job of highlighting the more minute aspects of racism that black people had to deal with at the time, the scene where an older black woman is denied the right to vote because she could not answer some outlandish trivia fact was a powerful one because it was not clichéd down with dramatic background music, but rather presented in a light that made it the most believable and ultimately the most frightening.
David Oyelowo was a man possessed in this film, and from the second the viewer heard his voice, they were presented with one of the most powerful and moving portrayals of one of America’s biggest heroes. The brilliance of this performance was that Oyelowo played Doctor Martin Luther King, Jr. as a normal everyday man instead of this historic god-like individual. Oyelowo was able to go from clowning around with his friends, to being scared for his family’s life, to back-talking the president, to giving an amazing speech, this versatility was a tremendous sight to see. Every time Oyelowo gave a speech in this film the hairs on the back of my neck stood up, pure power and passion erupted from his mouth every time he was on the podium. Oyelowo gave one of the best acting performances of the year which was a fitting tribute to one of the best men to ever walk this earth.
This film could not have come at a better time due to the high racial tension/conflict occurring in America and all over the world today. For all people, this film should serve as an example of how not to treat others, especially those who do not happen to share your skin tone. The only issue with this film was that while most of it was original and tremendous there were still moments of clichéd dialogue/predictable actions. I guess this can be chalked up to the fact that the topic of this film has been covered in books and in TV/Film for decades now, so there is always bound to be some common occurrences. Either way, this film was a shocking cinematic experience that had the ability to break the viewers’ spirit and also give the viewer hope for true change. Change which we all still strive for in 2016. I thank Ava DuVernay for this film and I hope that everyone sees this inspiring work of art at least once in their lifetime.
A strong 3.75 on the -5 to 5 scale.