From Ava DuVernay comes a great-directed, well-cast and superbly acted historical drama focusing on Dr Martin Luther King Jr’s dangerous campaign to secure equal voting rights in the face of violent opposition in 1965.
The epic march from Selma to Montgomery culminated in President Lyndon B Johnson signing the Voting Rights Act of 1965, one of the most significant victories in the history of civil rights movements in the United States. Before watching ‘Selma’, I was skeptical and thought to myself, oh dear! here comes yet another historical drama. Has Hollywood run out of themes to make films about. But given the high ratings it received across the globe I became a bit more excited to watch what many call the most glorious thing that has ever happened to the black American community. Oh boy, I was not disappointed. Many are the times that directors and screen writers try to depict a historical moment but instead of top notch entertainment, it turns into a farce as the story is convoluted with inventions and far fetched assumptions, just to “sell” the story. Selma, however, is the exact opposite. Surprisingly the beautifully written and acted ‘Selma’ does not fall into this trap. It actually imparts the significance of what happened during that march to an audience who was not an eyewitness. What makes this film such a great film to watch despite its length (2 hours 8 minutes) is its well-rounded famous cast, scenery and great direction. David Oyelowo is an excellent Dr Martin Luther King Jr. He plays the role with such ease it makes him seem like he was born for this role. He is modest, true and ambitious. I am yet to see another portrayal of Dr Martin Luther King Jr that is as good and as convincing as the one given by Oyelowo. For that matter, I still need to see another historical drama filled with such depth and insight. Carmen Ejogo gives a stellar performance as Coretta King, she is as graceful as she is witty. Her’s and Oyelowo’s characters marry so well even during the part where Coretta calls out Martin Luther King Jr on his infidelities. Something which definitely had me saying, “hmm okay, so she knew that he was a cheat and yet stood by him and supported his dreams”. We get other awesome performances from Tom Wilkinson who plays President Lyndon B. Johnson and from Oprah Winfrey (Annie Lee Cooper) and Common (James Bevel). Selma would have been yet another boring historical drama if it were not for DuVernay’s razor sharp direction and attention to detail. Overall she and the cast worked well together and give us something we do not always get from Hollywood. Selma draws one into the movie. It takes you back into 1965 with each and every scene, from the killing of the five black children by white supremacists, to the marching and to the battering of blacks as they marched for the right to vote. It not only entertains but teaches one How far mankind has come regardless of being black or white. One has to watch Selma not only with an open mind but an open heart. Be warned however if you are not one to enjoy lengthy films as the running time of the film is not the normal time an average movie lover would want to spend in the cinema confined to one seat. So, if you suffer from a limited attention span, first get some training on how to stay focused before you miss the opportunity to watch one of Hollywood’s greatest gifts to the big screen. Were someone to ask me to describe Selma in five words, I would say it is engaging, hard-hitting, emotional, spectacular, and a master piece.