There’s no manipulation, no ulterior motives, no imposition of white guilt, and no sense of Oscar bait in Selma. The movie succeeds because it was an emotional, technical, and trailblazing feat in the history of cinema. It is being hailed as a masterpiece simply because it is one. It’s being praised because it deserves praise. And people are saying the film was snubbed at the Oscars because it absolutely was snubbed. Its direction, screenplay, score, and film editing all raise Selma to the heights of being one of the best films of 2014.
Selma shows just a snippet of the tumultuous life and time of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. After he is awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, he turns to the executive power of President Lyndon B. Johnson for assistance in striking down the prejudiced voting restrictions in the 1960s South. With the President ignoring the pressing issues of violence, racism, and murder by the corrupt cops and officials in Alabama, King and his comrades decide to take matters into their own hands by raising the stakes of immediacy in the public’s eye.
King orchestrates a march of protestors – black & white; men & women; Christian, Jew, & otherwise – from the unflinchingly racist city of Selma, Alabama to Montgomery. Amidst the hardship the marchers and supporters face, opposers of the march – including Alabama’s governor and even President Johnson himself – are forced to re-evaluate the impact of their indifference.
We see King in an environment that the average citizen isn’t familiar with. There’s no epic re-enactment of the “I Have a Dream” speech, nor is there a scene depicting the assassination of the civil rights leader. The assassinations we see are those on the street, inside church, or in restaurants, making the deaths more unexpected and real. What we see of King encompasses his days in the height of his troubles, his interactions with acquaintances and enemies, and how he handles his role as a father, a husband, a friend, and a leader. To include the more well-known facts of his life in the movie would have been unjust to this film. Those aspects would have made Selma a superficial biopic that displayed King as a figurehead and an unchallenged hero. With Selma’s approach, we see King as a man, and more importantly, as a martyr. Because of this approach, Selma’s screenplay is a true work of art. Writer Paul Webb’s labors are obvious, and his efforts pay off.
The film is wonderfully directed by Ava DuVernay, who before Selma was predominantly concerned with making documentary features. I can’t image the film having a more fitting director than DuVernay – a woman who is was so clearly able to convey her passion for both filmmaking and equality through this magnificent movie. Her vision for Selma is fully realized and benefits from a fine performance by David Oyelowo as the historical man behind the movement.
Selma is fiercely powerful, with a patient approach, raw emotion, and spectacular performances to keep the film engrained in your memory. How and why this film was overlooked at the Oscars evades me, but I cannot stress enough that, in my opinion, it was a wrongful overlook. I implore you to see Selma, even if the Academy, for whatever reasons, may not agree with me as strongly on that statement.
To read more of AJ’s reviews, you can check out his blog at AJBeltis.Blogspot.com or listen to his WJMF show Monday at 1.
This movie received 5 out of 5 Bulldogs