Every now and then a film comes along that reminds us that the art of cinema serves a far more grandeur purpose than just entertainment, that it holds the power to inspire, to give people hope, to showcase triumphant struggles, and to ultimately capture the stories of the human experience. Selma is one of those films, and by God is it a masterpiece!
Selma tells the true story of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the series of civil-right marches that he lead through the deep south in the 1960s, and the small rural town of Selma, Alabama that played a fundamental turning point for the Civil Rights movement. Selma had a majority African-American population, however hardly any of its black residents were able to vote (due to racist voting laws and intimidation), and with Selma being the seat of the local county jurisdiction, Dr. King knew that if he could successfully earn their Right to vote, they would be able overturn the racist officials and gain political power that would prove vital in the passing of the Civil Rights Act.
The director, Ava DuVernay (who is also the first female African-American director to be nominated for a Golden Globe Award), crafted Selma with pristine historical accuracy. Many aspects of the Civil Rights movement are portrayed with amazing cinematic brilliance; the Birmingham Bombing, the conflict between Malcolm X and Dr. King (unbeknownst to many, the two men did not see eye to eye when it came to fighting for equality, and they both ruthlessly criticized each other’s actions. Malcolm X favored a more militant style, whereas Dr. King favored a more peaceful approach. Both men however were obviously vital to the Civil Rights movement regardless), the meetings between Dr. King and President Johnson, the police brutality at the conflict at Edmund Pettus Bridge (also known as “Bloody Sunday”), and the wide variety of people of all skin colors and backgrounds who joined and marched side-by-side with Dr. King. Selma doesn’t just tell the tale of one Civil Rights leader, it tells the tale of the Civil Rights Movement as a whole!
Selma features an all-star cast, with David Oyelowo (Lincoln, The Butler) playing Dr. King, the beautiful Carmen Ejogo as King’s Wife Coretta, Oprah Winfrey as Annie Lee Cooper, Tom Wilkinson as President Johnson, and the talented Tim Roth as the infamous George Wallace. The chemistry between the actors is phenomenal, every line of dialogue is so perfectly written and performed with such elegance that the result is something that looks and feels majestically natural. It was also filmed on set at the real life Selma itself and the historical sites that have been preserved over the years, making the audience experience all the more profound.
One of the most compelling aspects of Selma is the way it portrays Dr. King. He is portrayed simply as a passionate but flawed man who has decided to stand up against injustice in the world. It’s the “flawed” part that I felt was a bold and honest move by the film, as we get to the see the real Dr. King, which in my view makes him more relatable. Selma shows the strain that his marches had on his marriage, the doubts that Dr. King faced regarding whether or not he could keep the peaceful route going amidst the growing hostility and violence, the adulterous affairs he had with other women (that’s something they won’t teach you in history class, but rest assured it’s true. Dr. King was a good man, but still a man, and thus had the same temptations), and the infighting among those involved in the marches. However, witnessing these struggles of Dr. King on screen only makes one admire his legacy even more, as despite the few personal problems he had, he still managed to overcome them for the sake of building a better future for all Americans, and in that he certainly succeeded.
Selma is a film that all Americans should be required to watch. I strongly implore you to see it as soon as you get the chance! Take your spouse, take your kids, hell take your whole family, this is by far one of the most important films to ever grace American cinema. I will even go so far as to suggest that schools take kids on field trips to see this movie, it is that fundamental (it‘s rated PG-13, so it‘s not too violent as far as content is concerned)! Quite frankly Selma is a film that is long past overdue, I have no idea what took Hollywood so long to make a finally create a film about Martin Luther King Jr., but considering the recent race issues we have had in this country regarding the events in Ferguson Missouri and the murder of Eric Garner by police, perhaps now is the perfect time for Selma to be released for it reminds us all that love and not hate, is the path to healing a broken nation.
I give Selma a 5 out of 5.
Selma is rated PG-13