Selma

 

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The city of Selma in Alabama is the setting for this real life drama with Martin Luther King at its centre.

 
Selma

Dream casting: David Oyelowo

 

David Oyelowo who plays Martin Luther King in this film undoubtedly deserved the Oscar nomination which was denied him for his is a triumphant performance. Furthermore, he deserves extra credit for backing Ava DuVernay as director and co-writer (with Paul Webb) after the original set-up for the film collapsed. The importance of the subject matter and the quality of the film both contributed to make this one of the cinema highlights of 2015.

 

Selma starts in 1964 when King was about to receive the Nobel Peace Prize and at the film's close it is mentioned that he would die at the hands of an assassin in 1968 aged only thirty-nine. However, rather than embracing a broader canvas, this film opts to concentrate on one short period in King's life when an election was coming up in Selma, this at a time when the state governor, George Wallace (Tim Roth), was being outspoken in his reactionary views as to how black people should be treated. King, deeply concerned to ensure that black citizens should have effective voting rights, chose to speak out on this issue in Selma and specially travelled there to do so.

 

Other figures in the story include King's wife, Coretta (Carmen Ejogo), President Lyndon B. Johnson (Tom Wilkinson) and  the FBI's notorious J. Edgar Hoover (Dylan Baker), but it is events in Selma itself that are at the centre of this film. They would include more than one march through the streets and a court hearing. These elements provide the film lasting just over two hours with more than one potential climax which is a slight disadvantage (those more familiar with the events than I was will, of course, know when there is still more to come). However, this is to quibble and in its chosen traditional style Selma is a commanding and compelling film. All the actors do well, but there must be special praise for Oyelowo who sustains the  central role effortlessly and for Wilkinson whose supporting  performance as the President finds him at his most persuasive.

 

MANSEL STIMPSON

 

Cast: David Oyelowo, Tom Wilkinson, Carmen Ejogo, Giovanni Ribisi, Alessandro Nivola, Cuba Gooding Jr, Tim Roth, Oprah Winfrey, Dylan Baker, Lorraine Toussaint, Wendell Pierce, Ruben Santiago-Hudson, Martin Sheen, Stephen Root.

 

Dir Ava DuVernay, Pro Christian Colson, Oprah Winfrey, Dede Gardner and Jeremy Kleiner, Screenplay Paul Webb, Ph Bradford Young, Pro Des Mark Friedberg, Ed Spencer Averick, Music Jason Moran, Costumes Ruth E. Carter.

 

Pathé/Harpo Films/Plan B/Cloud Eight Films/Ingenious Media-Pathé.
128 mins. UK/USA. 2014. Rel: 6 February 2015. Cert. 12A.