Thursday, January 8, 2015

'Selma' Takes An Inside Look At The Movement

By Darlene Donloe

Believe the hype!

It’s true that Director Ava DuVernay’s latest film, Selma, has been getting a lot of accolades.  It’s also true that the accolades are warranted.

The film grabbed four Golden Globe nominations, including Best Picture, Best Actor (David Oyelowo), Best Original Song (Glory by Common and John Legend) and Best Director (Ava DuVernay)  In fact, DuVernay became the first black woman in the Golden Globes 70 years history, to be nominated for best director.

And that’s not all, the buzz for the film is more like a roar. Even though the film has not been widely released, it’s already being touted as one of the best films of the season.  

David Oyelowo

But, lets not lose sight of what the film is about or its message.

To its credit Selma, which stars David Oyelowo as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., doesn’t try to tell Dr. King’s entire story. It’s not an MLK biopic. Instead DuVernay chose to depict the tumultuous three-month period in 1965 when Dr. King led a dangerous campaign to secure equal voting rights in the face of violent opposition. During those three months, Marchers attempted to make the 54-mile trek from Selma to Montgomery, Ala., but were driven back by authorities before getting protection from the federalized National Guard to ensure their safe passage.  Selma tells the story of how the revered leader and visionary and his brothers and sisters in the movement prompted change that forever altered history. Although the Civil Rights Act of 1964 legally desegregated the South, discrimination was still widespread in certain areas, making it very problematic for blacks to register to vote. The epic march from Selma to Montgomery culminated in President Johnson (Tom Wilkinson) signing the Voting Rights Act of 1965. 

It’s been 50 years since Selma, Alabama became ground zero in the struggle. The film shows how it wasn’t just King, it took people from all walks of life and in America to win justice. And while their names are often omitted, they are no less important.  The movie brings history to life.

DuVernay (I Will Follow/Middle of Nowhere) takes us behind he scenes of the movement. She shows its flaws, along with King’s.  We see bickering, discord, disapproval and doubt. She takes us into the Oval Office to witness sometimes volatile and no so pretty conversations between King and President Lyndon Johnson. 

David Oyelowo and Carmen Ejogo

There are some stellar performances in the film, most notably British actor Oyelowo, who instead of mimicking, captures the essence of King.  The movie opens with King and his wife, Coretta playfully getting him ready to receive the Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo.  It shows King’s playful and flirtatious side. It’s the quite before the storm.  Oyelowo successfully displays King’s now infamous cadence. Carmen Ejogo doesn’t have a huge presence in the film, but her quiet, subtle performance as Coretta Scott King is exceptional. Oprah Winfrey, who is also one of the film’s producers, makes a significant impact as Annie Lee Cooper, a woman who tried, unsuccessfully, on several occasions to register to vote.  There are no bad performances in this film. Even the extras who served as marchers – lifted the film.

Kudos to DuVernay who, with a $20 million budget, assembled a first rate cast and a first rate film!

The film stars Oyelowo, Carmen Ejogo, Tom Wilkinson, Cuba Gooding Jr., Alessandro Nivola, Giovanni Ribisi, Common, Lorraine Toussaint, with Tim Roth and Oprah Winfrey as “Annie Lee Cooper.”

Paramount Pictures, Pathé, and Harpo Films present “SELMA.” Produced by Christian Colson, Dede Gardner, Jeremy Kleiner, Oprah Winfrey, the film is executive produced by Brad Pitt, Cameron McCracken, Diarmuid McKeown, Nik Bower, Ava DuVernay, Paul Garnes and Nan Morales. The film is written by Paul Webb. Selma is directed by Ava DuVernay.

Selma, which opened in selected cities December 25, 2014, opens nationwide, Friday, Jan. 9, 2015.

On the DONLOE SCALE: D (don’t bother), O (oh, no), N (needs work), L (likeable), O (oh, yeah) and E (excellent), Selma gets an E (excellent).

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