We celebrate the life of Martin Luther King Jr today with looking at Ava DuVernay’s historical film Selma.
Imagine this scene – a white sheriff on top of a powerful steed cracking a whip on the back of a black woman, child or man because someone dared to challenge equality. Your mind would probably be immediately taken back to slavery; brutal owners treating ethnicity like it is property and if you are not a racist cunt, then you wil be shocked at our 1800 arseholes who scooped up bodies from different countries in order to control them but think, “well, the past sucked, glad that’s over.” But what if I told you these are actually scenes from a mere 50 years ago? And before you say “racist grandparents…” this kind of behaviour is still burning around the world today.
The story revolves around Noble Peace Winning Civil Rights leader Martin Luther King and one of the most wrought moments of his career. The 1965 March from Selma to Montgomery to enable the black population of America to vote was met with disdain from the South, including Governor George Wallace and somewhat contention from President Lyndon B Johnson. However, determined to become equals in the eyes of the population and the law, the movement’s will remained unstirred – but how far will their violent enemies go in order to keep them in line?
This is an undeniably ferocious performance from David Oyelowo. His performance embodies the spirit of Martin Luther King’s and his deals that will have you questioning whether Oyeolowo is really in this film or the production team have been compiling video clips of Martin Luther King’s movements. Oyelowo, the British actor who has been tipped for glory ever since he was picked up by director Lee Daniels in films such as The Paperboy and The Butler, encompasses not only the tone and nuances of Martin Luther King but is enthused with the hardened will that the leader possessed. Able to delicately handle the wrought tension and pressure placed upon Luther King’s back, Oyelowo is still able to portray the difficulties of the leader including personal ones with his family. Oyelowo does not hold back, gifting Martin Luther King with the courage and depth. It’s an amazing performance.
Alongside Oyelowo is some terrific performances by a supporting cast who are not merely there to prop up Oyelowo’s greatness but instead, interspersing these roaring and passionate real life voices that aided the Civil Rights Movement. Selma is an ensemble cast to celebrate, galvanizing passionate stories with breath-taking realism. Highlights include Lorraine Toussaint as Amelia Boynton Robinson, who is this overwhelming intense character; Carmen Ejogo as his wife Coretta, battling between the ambitions of the march and Martin’s infidelities and Wendell Pierce as Hosea Williams lend their talents to truly capture the period of tension and demand for justice and equality.
Ava DuVernay has accomplished whopping feats here by stripping away the pitfalls of biopics and making it more about the events surrounding this historical figurehead. Despite the core being this demanding voice from Luther King, DuVernay is able to capture the period and the other voices well – making it a sublime watch. As well as it being beautifully shot, adding a layer of brutality to the film, she astutely conveys the haunting images in such a visceral way that the entire movie commands your attention from start to finish. Whilst not shying away from showing the tragic deaths and bloody parts, DuVernay is sensitive not to exploit them and instead capture them in their stark honesty which is effervescing throughout the entire film.
The important thing to remember with Selma is that the Civil Rights Movement and racially motivated murders were still a part of American society so recently that two parts of The Beatles, who were making their name during this time, are still alive. And this after effect of deep rooted racism burns alive even now. Selma is not only a film to invest in this year because it showcases a powerful leader such as Martin Luther King. But it still represents issues that arise in this day and age whilst celebrating the people who fought against even worse oppression. This is the American spirit we should be championing in cinema.