Among the challenges that still existed for racial politics in the mid 1960s was the lack of equality surrounding voting. Martin Luther King Jr was looking to take up the cause along with some of his closest friends and supporters, prompted following the violent deaths of several young black children. Trying to take a nonviolent path, King first attempted to meet with President Johnson to lobby for federal support for their cause, but was met with excuses against getting involved. The group set up in Selma, AL and started to gather community and national support for a march from Selma to Birmingham, to the state house. King and his supporters were met with active resistance and hate-filled violence, threatening their ability to even make it out of Selma to complete their march.
Reaction: Casting the role of MLK was certainly not an easy task, but the staff truly discovered a gem in David Oyelowo. He felt like the reincarnation of the great civil rights leader, projecting the perfect tone and temperament. There were a few moments throughout the film where he presented speeches to rally the support that were almost bone chilling in their resemblance to the real MLK. Tom Wilkinson (Lyndon B. Johnson) may not have had the right accent, but he maintained the bold resistance the real president was known for. Helping to round out the great cast were Carmen Ejogo (Coretta Scott King), Andre Holland (Andrew Young), Dylan Baker (J. Edgar Hoover), and Tessa Thompson (Diane Nash).
The story started with the death of the four girls at the church and the clerk denying Annie Lee Cooper (Oprah Winfrey) to ability to register to vote. With the talks between Johnson and King ending up being for naught, the mission to organize and conduct the march begins. From a political stance, Hoover and Johnson question King’s efforts and whether the race issue is worth addressing. Hoover appeared to be against movement toward equality, while Johnson just continued to question whether he needed to get involved. In reality, Johnson was a supporter of King’s efforts, but the film takes a bit of artistic licensing with the amount of drama between the pair.
The storytelling helped to make this a truly engaging film. King may have been the leader of the movement, but even he had his moments of doubt. With events like the death of the supporters, the tie-up in the courts, and the first attempt being thwarted by the police and a mob on the other side of the bridge, it seemed like an impossible task to pull of a peaceful protest against the voting rights violations. Other than the Johnson portrayal, the rest of the film projected high authenticity. It also included excellent cinematography, direction, and original music.
Selma is the type of film that screams Oscar for its excellent direction, acting, and overall presentation. This is yet another great example of storytelling important moments in history.
Dan’s Rating: 4.5/5