Selma – Review
Director by Ava DuVernays, “Selma” tells the story of the American Civil rights movement at its pinnacle. Specifically, it focuses on the tumultuous three-month period in 1965 when the Reverend Martin Luther King’s led a non-violent campaign to secure voting rights in Selma, Alabama against a tide of systematic violent opposition, bombings, sanctioned murder and the infamous “Bloody Sunday” confrontation on the Edmund Pettus Bridge. These events went on to eventually help be the catalyst of a much greater protest march to the state capitol of Montgomery, Alabama where it singularly help contributed to President Lyndon Johnson political ability to push through Congress, pass and eventually sign into law the Voting Rights Act of 1965; the most significant piece of legislation and moral victory for the civil rights movement.
Starring actor David Oyelowo (recently in “The Butler” and “Interstellar”) as Martin King and Carmen Ejogo as Coretta King we see early in the film the countless people and volunteers who essentially sacrificed everything to prompt change that would forever alter American history in regards to equality and voting. What is the great real revelation in this film are their intimate stories that transcend the grainy archival black and white video footage we normally associate with that time. Director Ava DuVernays in two hours manages to take this dramatic period in recent American history and turn it into a respectfully honest, agonizingly sober, horrifically inspiring and extraordinarily memorable film. One that takes us not on a journey to make saints out of those who led and fought for equality and justice in this country nor does it overly dramatize, embellishes or alter any facts simply to enhance greater hatred for those who were centrally bigoted and racist to the cause. No, “Selma” is an honest and accurate accounting of real events that seem to capture real contemporary freshness to its story with full vitality and a masterful mix of genuine historical authenticity and vivid photographic richness. Ultimately, “Selma” is one of the most emotionally honest films I have ever seen.
In too many scenes for me to ever count “Selma” gives up a humane and tender look into the private intimate lives of all those involved with great meticulous care. We see through the Director’s cinematic vision the most inner grounded and bare bone thoughts of King and others as they struggle mightily to lead people with nothing more than their profound words and physical out ward courage. It also shows them in their most solitary moments filled with self-doubt, fear, humor, humility, shame, anguish and politically savviness all with the grand culminating hope that in the end what they were doing was morally right.
I have to admit, there are a couple scenes that are simply beyond moving. One involving King making a late night call to someone for encouragement, another with King and Coretta alone in their kitchen dealing with a crisis, another with King and his longtime friend Ralph Abernathy in a Selma jail cell and many scenes involving discussions with King and President Johnson in the Oval Office.
Take it to the bank, “Selma” will be nominated for Best Picture and Director Ava DuVernays will be nominated for Best Director; her film here should be shown in class rooms as required viewing. Also British Actor David Oyelowo is certain to get a nomination for Best Actor; he in particular was nothing short of spectacular and memorable here. Also remember the name Paul Webb as a possible nominee for Best Original Screenplay, his writing in this film is some of the best work I have heard in recent memory. Finally the entire cast of supporting characters give equally stellar efforts to this magnificent film
I could go on, but I will sum “Selma" up in this way. In my estimation, it is one of the most sophisticated, eloquent and best American films I have seen this year. It is beyond reproach, it has no political agenda, is beyond any recrimination and has no intentions to redesign or exalt Dr. King into some deity status as doing something selfishly great for America. Instead “Selma” in fact is about how many men and women chose to act in the way Edmund Burke reminded us so eloquently to respond, that being “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing”. Selma is about the many who chose to collectively doing something great for America.
This is an absolutely must see film. You will be glad you did.
4 Stars Plus