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[Review] – ‘Selma’

 
 
Overview
 

Release Date: 9 January 2015 [USA]
 
Director: Ava DuVernay
 
Writer: Paul Webb
 
Cast: David Oyelowo - Carmen Ejogo - Tim Roth
 
Direction
 
 
 
 
 


 
Writing
 
 
 
 
 


 
Performance
 
 
 
 
 


 
Sound & Music
 
 
 
 
 


 
Cinematography
 
 
 
 
 


 
Editing
 
 
 
 
 


 
Visual Effects
 
 
 
 
 


 
Total Score
 
 
 
 
 
4/5


User Rating
1 total rating

 


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Posted February 26, 2015 by

 
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Review:

Well, the biggest awards of the season have come and gone… And all the usual suspects were up for discussion: The favourites, the surprise contenders, the dresses, the social issues, the winners, the losers… And the snubs. Of this latter, I don’t think any this year have quite created the stir Selma has. Be it the fact that director Ava DuVernay was overlooked for the category of Best Director, the fact that David Oyelowo was overlooked for the category of Best Actor or the whole discussion that then ensued about racial equality and stereotyping in the entertainment industry, Selma gave us a lot to talk about and a lot to think about.

For those who were in any way disturbed by the discussions, there was a simple way to avoid this. All the Academy needed to do was give credit where it was due – Selma is a strong, empowering and beautiful film.

Selma tells the story of one of the more turbulent periods of the life of Martin Luther King Jr. We join Dr King in 1965, as he is trying to secure equal voting rights. Selma, Alabama is chosen as the prime location to base these protests and the protests aim to culminate in a march from Selma to Montgomery. However, Dr King and his supporters must face constant stalling from President Johnson and the hard fist of prejudice from Governor Wallace and the citizens of Selma.

Say what you will about Selma, nomination or not, this film contains some of the strongest acting we have seen this season. On the one hand, we have some quite brilliant performances from Tom Wilkinson as president Johnson – desperate to “keep the peace” at the detriment of civil rights in the period leading up to election year and Tim Roth as Governor Wallace, whose only motive is his personal hatred and racism. Their little “conversation” at the end of the film was one of the best give and takes I have witnessed in a film for a very, very long time indeed.

But the man of the hour is, of course, David Oyelowo, who pulls off a feat of acting quite extraordinary to behold. For those of you who didn’t catch that bit of news, as the rights to Martin Luther King Jr’s speeches are owned by Steven Spielberg (due to some previous lease – deal) the speeches used in Selma are not Dr King’s own speeches, they were written specifically for this film. So through the study of the great man and his speeches, David Oyelowo has taken the modern words and delivered them in such a style that, we come as close as we possibly could to what it would feel like to listen to – or maybe a better word would be to experience – a speech by Martin Luther King.

Because – by all accounts – it was truly an experience to listen to a speech by Dr King and it was an experience that was carefully choreographed – as are the speeches of most great orators. And that is the side of Dr King that the film attempts to show. He is portrayed as a man of tactics and a man who carefully weighs each step before he takes it. Selma Alabama is chosen as location for their efforts BECAUSE they all know that they will create “drama” here as one young supporter puts it. Drama is exactly what the movement needs – lots of newspaper coverage, white consciences tugged at and brought over to the side of the movement. Peaceful protests are all well and good – but the problem is when they are over there is very little to report… Death and carnage is a better story – and ultimately helps the movement. The moment of truth for DuVernay’s Dr King comes when he is faced with the upshot of his wish for drama. Every move he makes, every protest, every march is marked by another death, another loss, more violence… And this is the precise point at which Dr King is faced with a dilemma and a crucial point in his arc of development as a character. To hold back and save more lives, or to carry on, despite the ever-steeper price he and every single person around him have to pay, day in and day out. It is a rare reminder that the “great man” we celebrate to this day was, first and foremost, a man.

In short, if Selma didn’t take home an iconic little gold man (well it did, for Best Song, which is wonderful but my point is that it deserved more than one), it is in good company as history is full of films like A Clockwork Orange, The Godfather, Pulp Fiction, Taxi Driver and Schindler’s List that were all snubbed at the Oscars but stay firmly anchored in the hearts of audiences everywhere. As for the “can of worms” it opened as far as the representation of different races in Hollywood goes, well, at least it has put a very strong argument forward, which is ultimately how discussions are won in the long run.

 

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Sedef Hekimgil
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Essie Speaks
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