Country: USA, UK
Genre: Biography, Drama, History
Director: Ava DuVernay
Writer: Paul Webb
Music: Jason Moran
Cinematography: Bradford Young
Cuba Gooding, Jr.
Henry G. Sanders
Ledisi Anibade Young
An exceptional episode of the legendary activist Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s (Oyelowo) truncated 39-year-old life is finally brought up to the big screen by a female black director DuVernay, chronicles the historic voting rights marches from Selma to Montgomery in 1965, which pressures President Lyndon B. Johnson (Wilkinson), to pass the bill to eliminate restrictions on voting for black people. An Oscar BEST PICTURE nominee with only another nomination and final win for BEST ORIGINAL SONG (GLORY by Common and John Legend), to a great degree, is viewed being discriminatingly given the cold shoulder over other key nominations such as for Oyelowo’s leading actor and DuVernay in directing, a perennial disdain aiming at the senior-white-male demography in the academy. Yet, Rome is not built in one day and for the elderly, it is ever harder to change their deep-rooted prejudice, so we need more patience.
Started in 1964, when King accepts his Nobel Peace Prize and addresses an earnest speech sans rhetoric as possible as he can. Oratory is a critical mainstay in Oyelowo’s performance, not impeccably resembling King in person, Oyelowo imparts an extraordinary poise to lay bare the most human characteristics in King as opposed to his iconic image, which is mainly reflected in the showcasing sequences of a few significant speeches, and they’re magnificent in spite of the overhanging perturbation that they may fall into overblown strategy which we have all seen too many times. But in other time, viewers also get a chance to observe King’s life in private, the interactions with his friends and followers, dissenters and politicians, more intimately is the subtle tension between him and his wife Coretta (Ejogo), who is severely stressed by the frequent prank calls with life-threatening viciousness and the looming danger can never be dissipated around her husband and their family, DuVernay even humanises King with a tabooed reference about his affairs, allows him a considerately long time to answer Coretta’s forthright question. King is dethroned from being an ideal idol, his indecision is shown in the critical moment of the movement, not the guideline belief, but the practical side.
Whether or not political machinations are involved is the gray area, for example, who has miraculously arranged national TV broadcasting of the first small-scale marching, King’s men or other parties? The film refuses to divulge any information on that front, which prompts the whole scene to appear like a rehearsed performance, those fearless black people as cannon fodder whereas King conveniently skips the initiation marching, bravely take the beatings from the police defence, then being timely manoeuvred on TV to instigate a national sense of compassion in favour of the beaten, all smells too fishy, that is why we should give DuVernay two-thumbs up for her guts to debunk the elephant-in-the-room, the utterly putrid side of USA’s democracy, even for such a noble cause, the movement cannot be achieved without those sly tactics, where a small number of innocent people must be sacrificed for a bigger and loftier picture, what’s more stringent is, until today, the same pattern still prevails and reality hasn’t advanced essentially in the race prejudice half a century later in America. That’s why this film is so significant and relevant, in a worldwide scale, many places are all on the analogy of this.
For president Lyndon B. Johnson, DuVernay also bravely utilises the dramatic license to antagonise him against the crusade, everything is contingent on a hierarchy of priorities, the equality vs. supremacy battle only becomes urgent when the situation makes him and his government look bad, not because it is the right thing to do NOW, another applause for DuVernay to conspicuously materialise that corruptive facade of bureaucracy. And thanks to Tim Roth’s unrepentantly despicable portrayal of Gov. George Wallace, which pushes him as the No. 1 villain here, audience is granted a glimpse of the true color of a unabashed politician, both Wilkinson and Roth are excelling in animating these two unsympathetic characters on the screen with their superb expertise, galvanising to clap eyes on.
SELMA is first and last, an uncompromising piece of cinema recounts a not-to-be-forgotten and pretty recent triumph in our awakening consciousness against social injustice, it tells us more than its subject matter – not to diminish the importance of equality, since it is still a long way to go in any bifurcation to reach egalitarianism, moreover it is also piquantly dangerous, once we realise the roots of our society is based on a system corrupted by human frailties, it can attribute a more pessimistic view towards our own existence as human beings, and that is not for everyone, that’s why it is an oddity in the mainstream conduit, personally I think this is the reason why it gets snubbed other than the ostensible race and gender partiality, thus albeit political themes are rarely my cuppa, but for this one, DuVernay wins my endorsement thoroughly.