As promised, I finally went to see it (Twice, just to make sure). I’ve never really seen anything that could be described as “hard hitting” before, beyond Schindler’s List, but Selma really takes it as a starting point and just runs with it. This one is worth a watch. Tomorrow, Valentine’s Day for anyone who’s forgotten, you’ll be getting a look at Love Is Strange. You lucky, lucky sods.
Overview: Although the Civil Rights Act of 1964 legally desegregated the South, discrimination was still rampant in certain areas, making it very difficult for blacks to register to vote. In 1965, an Alabama city became the battleground in the fight for suffrage. Despite violent opposition, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. (David Oyelowo) and his followers pressed forward on an epic march from Selma to Montgomery.
The Ups: Everything about this film is masterly. Yes, I’m exaggerating a little bit, but I don’t think I’m far off the truth. The acting is incredible, very animated and emotionally expressive on all sides. The fact that the characters playing racists and so on put as much effort into their roles as the other protagonists do is fantastic to see. Selma is one-sided, certainly, but the opposition are not there as wooden caricatures to be mocked. The camera work and direction does not necessarily impart any sense of taking sides, although obviously the focus is more on the civil rights protesters than anyone else. It has to be. The script is clever, and well managed by the talent, but the majority of the praise should be heaped on the acting. The script is obviously well crafted, but its the emotion and expression that really pulls this film together. The whole room was in tears, or close to it, on numerous occasions.
The Downs: Very few, thankfully. Whilst the pacing generally is good, there are a number of time jumps that you aren’t told about until a character mentions it. It’s just a tad confusing if you miss the line. Any film like this is going to be a little heavy handed, that’s kind of a given, although for the most part Selma avoids that trap.
That’s really it. I suspect the release date was chosen more for award ceremonies than anything else, but it certainly deserves some academy recognition. It seems fairly historically accurate, and shots of various marches are inter-cut with actual footage which really hammers home that this all happened. This is not a biography of Martin Luther King so much as a biography of the particular events surrounding the town of Selma. And it’s fantastic. Go and see it.