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Selma - Film Review

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by Miyan (subscribe)
I'm a a part-time vocal coach and a mom of three lovely kids. I have a passion in writing besides music and languages.
Published January 26th 2015


For the first time in motion picture, Director Ava DuVernay features the historic non-violent struggle of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr and his supporters to win the voting rights of the African-American population in the U.S. The screenplay (written by Paul Webb) chronicles the significant events that took place between the 1963 Birmingham church bombing and the 1965 signing of the Voting Rights Act. The film is set primarily within the city in the Black Belt region of lower west Alabama, that is, Selma.

DuVernay triumphantly merges the techniques of drama and documentary in Selma right from the very start until the end. Clearly based on well-researched facts, the credibility of the narrative is supported by FBI surveillance reports and archival footage of the Selma-Montgomery march. DuVernay taps on restrained realism that allows the viewers to acknowledge the complexity in a process that reflects on leadership, strategies, principles, choices, and expectations associated with the fundamentals of adhering to and honouring people's civil rights. By only focusing on one particular chapter in the life of our protagonist, Duvernay is able to fully develop the characters while brilliantly capturing the world of politics apace with the civil rights demonstrators that set the stage for Selma.

Selma, David Oyelowo, Carmen Ejogo, Ophrah Winfrey
King with wife Coretta Scott King (Carmen Ejogo)

A very authentic performance of Dr. Martin Luther King's character played by David Oyelowo is commendable. It is very easy to commiserate with his personal crossroads and political battle. His delivery of speeches is natural, eloquent, and moving. In this film, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. is presented not only as an icon, but as an ordinary human being who does not carry an exemption from carnal guilt.

Selma, David Oyelowo, Edmund Pettus Bridge, Carmen Ejogo, Ophrah Winfrey
King during the second march at the Edmund Pettus Bridge

The second march scene at the Edmund Pettus Bridge is but one of Oyelowo's delivery of an awe-inspiring acting skill which DuVernay has captured extremely well. Even with the absence of dialogue, Oyelowo's body language hints a sudden awareness of the intimated danger when the troopers stepped aside to let the marchers pass. The atmosphere that is created by cinematographer Bradford Young using naturalistic lighting sharpens the mood of the story. A perfect music cue adds to the building tension and a timely silence that lasts a few seconds, succumb to a magnanimous feeling of resignation from both the actors and the viewers.

Selma, Lyndon Johnson, David Oyelowo, Edmund Pettus Bridge, Carmen Ejogo, Ophrah Winfrey
King with President Lyndon Johnson (Tom Wilkinson)

The supporting actors Tom Wilkinson (as President Lyndon Johnson) and Tim Roth (as the Alabama Governor George Wallace) remain persuasive and sincere to their emotional states.
Coretta Scott King (Carmen Ejogo) is shown as a composed and calm wife even during the confrontation with King on the issue of fidelity.

The episodic violence, although expected (e.g. the 'Bloody Sunday', the murder of Jimmie Lee Jackson and James Reeb) create startling, alarming, and sympathizing reaction.

Selma, Lyndon Johnson, SNCC, David Oyelowo, Edmund Pettus Bridge, Carmen Ejogo, Ophrah Winfrey
Members of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC)

Altogether, Selma is an engaging movie that not only dramatize the past but informs and gives credit to the men and women whose stories are crucial to strengthen, sustain, and promote the movement. The film is nominated for Golden Globes Best Picture, Best Director and Best Actor Awards.
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*Miyan was invited as a guest
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When: Check with local cinema
Where: In cinemas Feb 12
Cost: Varies
Your Comment
Thanks for the great review Miyan. I am looking forward to seeing this film.
by Jenny Rossiter (score: 3|4021) 1266 days ago
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