Film Review: Selma (Ava DuVernay, 2015) ★★★★

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A powerful civil rights drama following the final marches led by Dr. Martin Luther King Jnr. (David  Oyelowo) in 1965. Staging a series of peaceful protests, Selma, a small town in Alabama, becomes the theatre of a freedom march that is met by a bloody and violent resistance at the hands of the local authorities. In a bid to gain the right to vote without any tiered scrutiny, King is set to change the course of history as he and his fellow activists approach the final push for equality.

Presented more as a drama over a biopic, Selma does not conform to the clichés and conventions that are usually associated with iconic, historical figures. Without delving too much in to the entire legacy of King, DuVernay instead decides to focus the lens view more closely in to one specific period of the civil rights movement, and a time that is perhaps lesser known by UK viewers. 

It is 1965 and segregation is now illegal in the United States but hatred and inequality is still very much at the forefront, particularly in the Southern states. Following a vicious hate crime on a black church which left four young girls dead, King continues his efforts and becomes more determined to take the matter of inequality to the President. Standing his ground, he demands that the President pass a bill that allows African Americans the right to vote, free from dispute. President Lyndon B. Johnson (Tom Wilkinson) is reluctant, not seeing it as an immediate issue and the struggle becomes a race against time for King who has decided, "no more". Refreshing also is the decision to show King's doubt and concerns for his fellows activists. Having seen them beaten, some even killed for his cause, and the pressures put on his marriage - he questions if he is doing the right thing as all good protagonists do. This provides a new insight to the Martin Luther King Jnr. we all think we know.

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The titles following his victory read the successes that the King's 'comrades' went on to achieve following his speech in Washington DC in 1965. As viewers, there is the implied assumption - the knowing of King's fate in 1968 yet the titles remind us that despite his triumph at the end of this narrative, it is not the end. The inequality brought on the black community and other then minorities did not vanish overnight, and some might say it is still present for various races in our society still when you consider the recent Anti-Semitic attacks in Paris. The film closes with archive footage of the actual marches on Selma - portraying extreme police brutality, activists being gased and beaten by white spectators but ultimately footage of hopeful protesters who stood firm during the struggle for freedom of speech. 

As a 12A certificate, some scenes are rather disturbing but never overdone and executed perfectly. Their goal is to be devastating and moving and this is achieved fully. As a director, DuVernay clearly understands the message is not of hate or a 'fuck you' to the white man nor is it about torture porn, it is another peaceful protest in response to the crimes committed against humanity so that we may learn from them. At a time of mass terrorism, attacks on freedom of speech and the LGBT rights in Russia (not to mention the police brutality on African Americans in the media lately), Selma is just as socially and politically relevant as it would have been back in the 1960s and 70s. 

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Selma is not entirely without it's flaws with one particular dodgy CGI effect and a handful of strange camera focus choices. The cinematography is still well and truly there and some scenes beautifully shot, but ultimately, DuVernay plays on the biggest strengths of the film - the outstanding cast and the narrative's powerful message. Oyelowo delivers a truly heartfelt and moving performance which is truly Oscar-worthy. He is backed by a rich supporting cast, including executive producer Oprah Winfrey, dignified in the opening scene (as Annie Lee Cooper) where she is denied the right to vote by a racist bureaucrat, while Tim Roth, (as Alabama governor George Wallace), proves himself to be a pleasant surprise. Some note worthy cameos also come from Cuba Gooding Jnr, Martin Sheen and Giovanni Ribisi. 

Though not entirely flawless, Selma is a moving and powerful piece of cinema that will feature along side last year's 12 Years a Slave and The Color Purple (1985). Selma gets a Sophie star rating of 4 out for 5 stars and all the best for the Oscar for Best Picture nomination.

Another amazing film down for 2015 and the Oscar's are growing ever-closer! This film truly moved me and I would recommend you all to see it. What was the last film that moved you? What are your predictions for Best Picture this year? 

Until next time fellow film lovers,







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7 comments:

  1. Great review! I hadn't heard of this one but it sounds really good from your review. I think I might give it a try! XD

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    1. Thanks for reading it :) I hope you enjoy the film, it's definitely worth a watch and maybe even an Oscar x

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  2. I really enjoyed your review. I would be really happy if Selma won at the Oscars. It's too bad that it was snubbed for best actor and best director noms.

    I love your fashion sense and you'll be the second person I follow on tumblr. I see you and your boyfriend and you cat live in London. I did some work there in the City for about a year and Greater London is one of my favorite places in the world! I look forward to reading your other reviews.

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    1. I completely agree, some amazing acting! Thanks for reading, I'm very glad you liked my review. Ha yes I do live in London with my cat and boyfriend! London has it's pros and cons but I love it :) You should visit more often - it's always changing! Thanks very much - thanks for following :)

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  3. i really want to see this film, i'm very interested in the civil rights movement and i think given all the events that have happened in ferguson over the past year it's a relevant topic as well as an interesting one - nice review!

    fashion, beauty and an existential crisis

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    1. Yes please do see it if you can! I agree, it is a fascinating yet very tragic part of history. Definitely still relevant today - thanks for reading it, glad you liked it! x

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  4. I liked this review - love hearing other people's opinions on films I love and social topics. I absolutely loved the film and I've done a sort if review about it as well on my blog.

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