the film “Selma” David Oylowo jumps ahead of the pack of actors
definitely in the race for a Best Actor Oscar nomination. Though this is
not a biography of Martin Luther King, the role he plays, it does show
the man with all his strengths and many of his weaknesses. King did not
plan or organize the marches the film centers on but took the lead when
The film centers around 3 marches that took place
in Alabama to protest the discriminatory practices that took place to
stop black people from going to the polls though they did have the right
to vote. The 54 mile march was to go from the town of Selma to
Montgomery, the capitol of Alabama, to confront the Governor, George
Wallace, played by Tim Roth.
The facts of the marches were
recorded and though they are the center of the film the screenplay by
Paul Webb concentrates of real human beings, famous or not, who were
involved. Those who lived through those violent and history making days
will have their memories refreshed of what did happen and along the way
learn things that took place unbeknown to them.
There are some
concerns about how the film portrays President Lyndon B. Johnson, played
by Tom Wilkinson, showing him in private talks with Dr. King and
between the President and Governor Wallace. This is a Hollywood story
and there are no witnesses to the discussions that took place so
depending on your thoughts you may feel one way or the other but by
turning the light on individuals this becomes many personal stories.
3 protest marches took place in March, 1967. The first ended when the
State troopers and county policeman attacked the 500 marchers with billy
clubs and using tear gas. A picture of Amelia Boynton, played by
Lorraine Toussaint, beaten unconscious and laying on the ground, was
shown all over the world with other pictures of violence, which had also
been televised, with that day becoming known as ‘bloody Sunday’. You
may not know or remember what took place at the other 2 marches but you
will see that in the film.
By its nature “Selma” is a violent
film, though none of the scenes are gratuitous, and shows just enough to
make a point without turning the audience off. One of the minor faults
of the film is that except for the violence that took place there is
very little heft in the drama that took place away from the marches
which may have been what the director wanted.
The acting, minor
and major roles, is of the first order whether it be Carmen Ejogo as
Coretta Scott King, Andre Holland as Andrew Young, Dylan Baker as J.
Edgar Hoover, Stephen Root as Al Lingo along with Trai Byers, Stephan
James, Cuban Gooding, Jr., just to mention a few. Oprah Winfrey as Annie
Lee Cooper blends in as one of the crowd and, like them, is her
character and not star.
Though this film belongs to David
Oyelowo, the director Ava DuVernay owns every shot, showing what needs
to be shown without overdoing it. The scenes of the dyed in the wool
racism shown by Wallace, local police, white citizens of Alabama are
true to life and not ‘stacked’ in anyone’s favor. There is talk that she
may become the first black female director nominated for an Oscar and
it is certainly worth that recognition.
“Selma” can be seen as a
‘history lesson’ but it is more of a reminder of America’s past and also
can be related to America’s present.