SELMA | MOVIE REVIEW

SELMA is the superb movie about Martin Luther King’s campaign to secure equal voting rights via an epic march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama in 1965. This led to the signing the Voting Rights Act of 1965, one of the most significant victories for the civil rights movement. Kernel John reviews this remarkable film that so far to date has won 27 awards and been nominated for 71. While it got two Oscar nominations (Best Picture and Best Achievement in Music) it is causing quite a stir for its general snubbing – especially that for Best Actor David Oyelowo. Make up your own mind when it releases on February 12 in Australia. It is being released by StudioCanal, is rated M and runs for 128mins. Enjoy John’s review…….all the best……JK.

 

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SELMA | SALTY POPCORN MOVIE REVIEW | MOVIE POSTER IMAGE

 

BY JOHN MCPARLAND

The concept and practice of inequality is nothing new to this world.  Conditional inequality will no doubt forever exist in some form or another: there will always be those with more than others, even if the difference is negligible.  However, inequality of opportunity, the unequal distribution among society of prospects for betterment in one’s life, is something we all must strive to eradicate.  It is when the operating social order actively denies these chances of improvement to individuals or groups, that we see great men and women rise to fight these injustices.

One such hero of the people is Martin Luther King, Jr. whose struggle for equal and unencumbered voting rights for African Americans is magnificently displayed in director Ava DuVernay’s first big budget film, SELMA.

This incredible movie retells the story of the 1965 Selma to Montgomery marches, in protest against the unlawful denial, harassment and discrimination against African Americans seeking to register to vote, in the wake of the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act ending segregation.  The film stars David Oyelowo (RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES) as Martin Luther King, Tom Wilkinson (THE BEST EXOTIC MARIGOLD HOTEL) as U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson, and Tim Roth (THE INCREDIBLE HULK) as Alabama Governor George Wallace, among many other talented performers.

 

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SELMA | SALTY POPCORN MOVIE REVIEW | STILL FROM MOVIE OF PEOPLE TAKING A STAND

 

The film opens with King receiving the 1964 Nobel Peace Prize in recognition of his indefatigable work towards equality for the black communities of America.  This simple introduction to a man who was slain nearly 50 years ago acts as a powerful induction for members of the audience who may not be familiar with King’s story; after all, Nobel Prize Laureates do not simply fall from trees.

This dramatic piece then moves steadily though the tragic events leading up to the marches, and follows King’s attempts at receiving legal recognition of his race’s needs through direct communication with an initially reluctant President Johnson.  Politically stonewalled by the administration, King descends on Selma, selecting it as the staging ground for his latest nonviolent protest.  There he meets heavy resistance from sadistic Sheriff Jim Clark and the frightfully racist Governor Wallace.

The film pulls few punches in its depiction of the conditions and treatment of black Americans in the country’s south in the 1960’s.  Blatant abuses of power by corrupt and vicious members of authority, violent and brutal dispensations of “justice” and retaliation by bigoted individuals in a position of influence, and always the constant marginalisation of an already heavily repressed group, act as a constant reminder of the hardships King and his cohort were fighting against.

 

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SELMA | SALTY POPCORN MOVIE REVIEW | ANNIE LEE COOPER (OPRAH WINFREY)

 

Through it all, King stands by his message of nonviolence, believing it to be the only way to bring about lasting change.  As King states in the film regarding his movement’s stance: “Negotiate, demonstrate, resist.”  And this they do, in the face of alarming opposition, and in defiance of the terrible retribution laid across their backs.  Violence begets violence, and King is determined that violence plays no part in the message he is trying to portray.  In his mind, violence by those determined to continue the repression against his demonstration can only serve to aid it, as the ethical conscious of the nation rebels against the cruelty enacted against those seeking equality through a path of peace.  As televised images of devastating white violence against peaceful unarmed black protesters spread throughout the country, the moral compass of America begins to shift, and King triumphantly capitalises on the traction and momentum that these unfortunate events have caused.

SELMA’s acting is outstanding; each cast member beautifully playing their part to bring to life this bloody moment in American history.  From the heroes of the piece to its villains, each performance draws you in totally, making your heart ache with sadness, soar with love, or go cold with loathing.  Oyelowo especially takes you on a rollercoaster ride of emotion through the highs and lows of King’s struggle, both personally and publically.

 

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SELMA | SALTY POPCORN MOVIE REVIEW | MARTIN LUTHER KING JNR (DAVID OYELOWO) BEING ARRESTED

 

DuVernay’s direction is equally exceptional.  She marvellously highlights each actor’s performance, and weaves together a rich tapestry of talent, dialogue, cinematography and story, that perfectly bring to life this fantastic film.  Of special note are King’s addresses.  For the influential and stirring content of his speeches, King is widely recognised as one of the greatest American orators.  When listening to him talk, no one can help but be moved by King’s words.  However, due to a copyright issue between King’s estate, DreamWorks Pictures and Warner Bros., DuVernay was unable to license any of King’s original speeches for inclusion in SELMA.  Thus, all of the inspiring and stirring words uttered by Oyelowo throughout the film were actually penned by DuVernay herself, and skilfully match the tone and structure of some of King’s most potent moments.

This emotive and inspirational movie has already won a slew of awards, and has even bagged itself two Oscar nominations, including Best Picture, incidentally making DuVernay the first female black director to ever be nominated in this category, which for a film based on the struggle for equality seems incredibly apt.  The film’s final moments brought a tear to my eye as footage of the original 1965 march was interspliced amongst the movie’s closing scene.  SELMA is a definite must see.

And if you would love to hear Martin Luther King JRs entire speech with text a group of people in the UK have created a unique resource which allows you to read the words of (and listen to) MLK’s famous speech ‘I have a Dream’ from the very perspective from which he would have delivered it – to the crowd from the Lincoln Memorial towards the Washington Monument. It is a great listen!! Listen HERE.

 

4 Pops