Opening 19 Feb 2015
Women were not given the right to vote throughout the United States of America until 1920, and only because suffragettes came together. For Negroes, patient protest was whittling away at segregation, although the right to vote, particularly in southern States, evaded them. Lyndon Johnson, a seasoned politician, was newly reelected president by a landslide, and signed into law the 1964 Civil Rights Act as part of his "Great Society" legislation; Governor George Wallace opposed segregation and was a populist making Alabama a hot-spot; non-violent protester Martin Luther King, Jr. and followers persevered to have a federal law passed guaranteeing Negroes voting rights. The then small community (and Dallas County seat) of Selma, Alabama consistently created obstacles to resist registering black voters, which whites entrenched in outdated ideas endorsed. Resistance to change was mighty.
As 1965 dawns, King and members of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) join local activists and members of SNCC (Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee). They plan to break the defiant deadlock by making it a national issue. What transpires is three protest marches from Selma to the capital Montgomery in March 1965, including “Bloody Sunday” with nationwide television coverage; we are privy to behind-the-scenes encounters including archival footage. The predominately British cast embodies historical personalities: David Oyelowo as M.L. King, Carmen Ejogo as Corette King, Tom Wilkinson as President Johnson, and Tim Roth as Governor Wallace – amazing.
Selma excels in every aspect, surpassing expectations. With Paul Webb’s adroit screenplay, Ava DuVernay directs her historical drama with sensibility; this complicated, multifarious, and crucial snippet of America’s past is told eloquently, with dignity. The entire cast, and production team – Bradford Young cinematography, Spencer Averick editing, Aisha Coley casting – deserve kudos. Selma tenaciously encapsulates the best, and the worst of a populace, yet manages to raise a sense of national pride while imparting issues worth pondering. Civil courage cannot be bought, and those who possess it too often pay dearly. Selma’s only Academy Award nomination is as one of eight for the Best Picture Oscar®. (Marinell Haegelin)