Selma is a film that deserves to be seen in all classrooms across the country just to give the students a feel for what the Civil Rights movement was about, what it felt like, and to demonstrate how far we have come as a country yet it also demonstrates how far we still have to go as a society. It is a powerful, intimate, brutally real portrayal of the Civil Rights movement, and gave us a glimpse into the psyche of Martin Luther King Jr, not only as an icon but also as a man, which this film pulled of beautifully.
One of the beginning scenes in this film is Oprah’s character (Annie Lee Cooper) trying to register to vote for the 5th time, and all of the ridiculous hoops she has to jump through and the ridiculous questions she is asked that nobody would know, and in the end, is turned away, for the fifth time. It is a heartbreaking scene that sets the tone for the film, and helped set up the importance of the African-American vote in southern states, especially in Alabama, where a majority of this film takes place.
Of course we can’t talk about this film without bringing up David Oyelowo , the man portraying Martin Luther King Jr. Oyelowo did a magnificent job, able to pull off the larger than life speeches with the cadence and delivery of King, along with the more intimate moments between him and his wife or with his friends. Oyelowo portrays King as a man, instead of the larger than life icon, and this portrayal was pulled off perfectly.
This film revolves around a major Civil Rights event, which was the march from Selma to Montgomery in 1965, but this film also revolved around the events that occurred behind the scenes, whether it was between King and President Johnson, or with the people he is leading, and these scenes were portrayed with a certain type of authenticity, while also delivering them with the tension or power that they deserved.
Speaking of President Johnson, Tom Wilkinson was effective as a conflicted man who wanted to help King with the movement, but wanted to do it on his terms, and how King’s stubbornness played into his decision making. The scenes between King and The President were electric, and we got a sense of what both men wanted andgot their conflictions.
The performances across the board were fantastic, but this film portrayed some of the most brutal scenes we’ve seen in film in a while. Some of these images will stay in your head for days, and the brutalness of the movement really sticks in your head, especially the way Bloody Sunday was portrayed. The sound design was fantastic and made you feel the impact of everything, and the way these events are portrayed will tug on your emotions. Some of these images will haunt you long after the credits roll.
Ava DuVernay does a magnificent job at directing this film, from the brutal violence to the more intimate scenes that had nearly the same impact. DuVernay is known for her independent films, and on this film she was given a bigger budget and bigger actors to work with, and she handled everything beautifully and this film will have an impact on you.
This film was brutal, powerful, insightful and really just very well made. It really gave us a glimpse into the Civil Rights movement and what African-Americans experienced on a day to day basis, and it really shows us how far we’ve come and how far we still have to go.