Selma (2014) - 8/10
Updated: Apr 25, 2021
I didn’t watch this when it was released. I can’t recall why, I was probably just watching a lot of other stuff. So many films. What a mistake though. If this slipped by you too, it’s well worth catching up. In fact, it might even be essential. We’re 50 plus years on from the events depicted here, but sadly the fight back that began here, still continues. I say fight back, to make it clear, although we’re talking about Dr Martin Luther King Jr’s struggle for equal voting rights in America. The fight itself had already begun with white America’s suppression of the majority of its population. I like a lot of what America stands for. Politically and socially though, it’s fucked. But... it certainly gives it chance to try and right those injustices. If that’s not admirable. I don’t know what is. This quite literally starts with a bang. One that will stun you and it doesn’t really let up from there. It’s easy to get angry. It’s easy to disbelieve the things shown on screen. Surely it’s not true, this level of racism. It is true though, then as it is now. David Oyelowo plays King. Very well I might add. I’m sure I recall some controversy over a Brit playing the role, but he makes fools of the doubters. Tom Wilkinson plays LBJ, which maybe added fuel to the fire. He’s great too. Not LBJ, he’s a prick, but Wilkinson brings his snivelling persona to life distastefully well. So 1965. The southern states still segregated. White officials stop black Americans from registering to vote, whilst white civilians (although there’s nothing civil about them), terrorise blacks, beatings, lynchings, murders like the one in the opening scenes. In Selma, Alabama... King draws the line. Normally I balk at endless exposition in film, but this strikes the balance well and helps those of us not in America that haven’t lived this. The story, the details are all laid clear. What King is proposing. How, why, where and when. A lot of this is done with King and I have to say I could listen to Oyelowo all day, be it the incidental dialogue or the righteous monologues. There’s some big names here too. Oprah Winfrey, Tim Roth as the scumbag governor of Alabama. Cuba Gooding Jr, Martin Sheen. Some I don’t recognise too, like Carmen Ejogo as Coretta King who delivers the devastating line about their abusers “they’re ignorant enough to be serious”. King preaches peace, but what the fuck do you do when the ones killing you are the fucking cops!! I HATE that this is real. It does feel like a big dramatic retelling rather than a historical document. That’s not to say what’s shown isn’t accurate and to be honest, documentary footage of these events would be all the more shocking. In its retelling though, it achieves what films like this should, they make it accessible. That’s why everyone should watch this. Try and understand what you’re watching. The injustice. Why it mattered. Why it matters. America despite all its promise is still a battleground and what’s put on screen here is tough to watch at times, but in places, it will make your heart swell. Cinema is powerful. The shots on Edmund Pettus Bridge (named after a confederate general and KKK leader) are particularly cinematic and really pack a punch. Hundreds of people. Black. White. Together. Marching from Selma to Montgomery, the state capital to simply raise awareness of their suppression. There’s no fantasy happy ending, but then it’s not over is it. Watch this though, it’s never too late.