WRITTEN BY: Paul Webb
DIRECTED BY: Ava DuVernay
STARRING: David Oyelowo, Carmen Ejogo, Tom Wilkinson, Tim Roth
RATING: 4 stars
The film is an account of Dr Martin Luther King's (David Oyelowo) campaign to secure equal voting rights for African Americans by marching from Selma to Montgomery in Alabama in 1965.
Martin Luther King is one of the most important figures in recent American history so it is important to have a film that emphasises his crucial message of equality, while also examining the wider issue as experienced by so many others at that time. The brutal violence depicted in the film is shocking and heartbreaking to watch at times. The events of 1965 may seem like a long time ago, but considering the tragic racism we still see in the United States and other countries, the film has a poignant message that resonates today just as it did 50 years ago.
The film has been criticised in the US for its inaccurate portrayal of President Lyndon B. Johnson, which presents him as somewhat of an opponent to the civil rights movement when in fact he was a supporter of the Selma march. I think perhaps that criticism is a bit harsh because the film does show him as backing the movement after pressure from King. The fact is, as the president, he would have faced obstacles in getting laws passed despite any personal feeling of support he might have had for the civil rights movement. I think the film handles his struggle fairly.
The film was also largely overlooked as an Oscar nominee and now that I have seen the film, I can certainly agree that Oyelowo at the very least deserved a nomination for best actor. His voice and delivery of speeches was fantastic. The supporting cast were also very good including Wilkinson who carried himself so much like Johnson, and Tim Roth who was so appropriately racist and slimy as Governor George Wallace. Oprah Winfrey also appears in a small but pivotal role as an intelligent woman who is repeatedly denied the right to enrol to vote. She has some particularly moving moments.
Selma is at times painfully slow to watch, but I am just glad that we have this significant story depicted in a film at all.