Starring: David Oyelowo, Tim Roth, Tom Wilkinson
Director: Ava DuVernay
Running Time: 128 mins
Selma is an American film about the campaign launched by Martin Luther King Jr. and his fellow civil right campaigners to secure the right and liberty to vote by staging a march from Selma to Montgomery, in Alabama.
This is an absolutely fascinating film. Historically, it’s pitch-perfect, and is an interesting and viewer-friendly account of a hugely important historical event. Emotionally, this film also hits a high note, and although I may not have found it as moving as I expected, it still hit me a lot harder in some places where it very realistically shows the brutality of the anti-Civil Rights campaigners towards these non-violent protesters.
I’ll start, however, with what I thought was the best part of the whole film: David Oyelowo’s stunning central performance as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Oyelowo basically owns this entire film, and has such a commanding and convincing presence on screen as one of history’s most acclaimed individuals. But he doesn’t portray King in such a way that he’s perceived to be a saint, quite the opposite, often shedding a much more vulnerable light on the man that many people are not so aware of as a part of his legacy.
Another brilliant performance in this film comes from behind the camera, in the form of director Ava DuVernay. She directed this film so well, representing the scale and importance of the Civil Rights Movement so clearly on screen, putting you even more on the side of the protesters, whilst also helping to create this view of the main character, Martin Luther King, where he doesn’t have total power and influence over everything that happens, and really makes it apparent that this movement was such a struggle, which I was very impressed by.
In terms of how the history of this film is represented, it’s fantastic. From what I know about the March on Selma, this is hugely accurate and faithful to the truth, but what it really does do is explore various differing themes happening in the Civil Rights Movement in a simplistic and enjoyable way.
For example, the story’s not just about Martin Luther King Jr., nor is it just a portrayal of blacks gaining the right to vote. This film also delves deeper into looking at how Dr. King was a master tactician, the impact of the media in shaping national perception of the campaign, as well as resistance to the movement in the Deep South, and splits between Civil Rights campaigners as new ideologies began to emerge, and all of that brought together was absolutely fascinating.
Finally, this film also worked very well on an emotional level. I felt that it maybe didn’t have the extreme brutality that was perhaps necessary to be hugely hard-hitting, but out of sensitivity, showed the violence suffered by the campaigners in a lighter way. That said, this is still a very brutal film, and there are some hugely emotive sequences that did hit me hard, and made me even more engrossed in the story.
Overall, this gets an 8.0, due to its stunning acting and directing, as well as intelligent and accurate representation of the history.