Leon reviews the Dr Martin Luther King biopic, Selma.
Earlier this week, I was lucky to be invited to see a special preview of the film Selma. Let me tell you – I was not disappointed.
In what will arguably be the most powerful film of 2015 – I know it’s a bit early to make that call, but make it, I shall – Selma is a story set in the Alabama town of the same name, where Dr Martin Luther King led the marches that forever changed the course of history for Black Americans.
The story is set during a chaotic three-month period in 1965, when Dr King led a peaceful protest campaign to secure equal voting rights for Black Americans. King’s ‘non-violence at all costs’ protest ethic was the antithesis to the ultraviolent opposition they faced from the majority ‘white law’. The resulting clashes and struggles led to the epic 87km march from Selma to Montgomery, and came to a head with President Lyndon B Johnson signing the Voting Rights Act of 1965 – one of the most significant victories for the American civil rights’ movement.
David Oyelowo’s performance as Martin Luther King Jr is absolutely flawless – he is truly amazing – and it is a travesty that he wasn’t nominated for a Best Actor award at this year’s Oscars. Oyelowo is solidly backed by a stellar supporting cast, which includes Tom Wilkinson as President Johnson, Tim Roth as the racist Governor George Wallace, Carmen Ejogo as Coretta Scott King, and Giovanni Ribisi as presidential aide Lee White. Honestly, I was so impressed by the cast of Selma that I could not fault a single performance – not even Oprah Winfrey’s obligatory cameo, as she seems to have in every American empancipation film that’s come out over the last 20 years.
The cinematography is beautiful, with the stunning photography perfectly colour toned to create a ‘Southern American pressure cooker type’ situation, which firmly placed me in the period. And apart from the insertion of a couple of modern music pieces toward the end of the film, which completely removed my suspension of disbelief, the soundtrack was almost without fault.
Selma is an epic story that will have you engrossed from the get-go – the injustice, the horror and the unbelievable fact that this all took place only 50 years ago will astound most viewers of generations born since this epic historic period.
I highly recommend Selma to all, with the disclaimer that viewers prepare to be confronted. This is by no means a light-and-easy film; it is a highly charged emotional chronicle of injustice, but, as with the climactic events that took place in the story, it will be well worth the challenge.
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