I believe those who are interested in films and follow the award season will have heard of the controversy around “the whitest Oscars since 1998” and the Academy’s snub of the film Selma (while it was nominated for Best Picture, neither director Ava DuVernay nor actor David Oyelowo were nominated for their respective categories). Although I do have an opinion on the matter and the (mainstream blockbuster) film industry’s failure to support diversity in film in general, I will not venture it now as I want this post to be focused solely on Selma.
Having seen the film only yesterday at the cinema, I wanted to share my experience of watching the film. For an experience it truly was. It’s been a long time, in fact I cannot remember the last time I’ve been so moved by a film and I have seen many touching films recently including The Imitation Game, The Theory of Everything, and Boyhood, for instance. It was touching, heart-wrenching, and sad; at the same time brutal, tough, and authentic. Right from the start it is clear that this is not going to be “an easy watch” (nor should it/was it meant to be): the shocking scene in the beginning showing the bombing of the Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama in which 4 young girls were killed comes to mind.
The acting, especially David Oyelowo’s as Martin Luther King, was tremendous; his scenes when holding speeches in particular were very impressive. The entire cast including Carmen Ejogo, Tom Wilkinson, André Holland, Colman Domingo, and Tim Roth was equally convincing and intense. Regarding the plot, I feel the film managed to find a good balance between showing both the political & activist side as well as the personal side of King. The scenes depicting the brutality and racism the demonstrators faced were done straightforwardly and unapologetically – honestly but not accusingly.
There is really no need for me to explain the historic relevance of the time or the man highlighted in this movie. But the film itself is important as well; in fact, it is the very first (!!) big major motion picture on Martin Luther King’s influence on the Civil Rights Movement or on the Selma voting rights marches. Racism is something we still struggle with today and despite what some might say the progress in terms of racial equality made since the 60s is far from sufficient. Film is a very unique and important medium and should be used not only for entertainment purposes but also to raise awareness and point out social issues.