Selma (Dir. Ava DuVernay, 2015)

David Oyelowo, as Martin Luther King Jr, rearranges his tie. Self-aware, he looks in the mirror and practices the speech he will give when accepting the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964. Director Ava DuVernay directs a significant film that focuses on the 50-mile voting-rights march from Selma to Montgomery. Resting on the shoulders of MLK himself, Oyelowo is magnificent. Every defiant speech and passionate plea holds the weight of history and boldness of truth. Who even comes close to this man in modern politics? A single punch as he arrives in Selma and the inevitable arrest during a peaceful protest realises the challenges faced. Voting was not a given, and men, women and children fought for their right. A screenplay written by Paul Webb (and an uncredited DuVernay) tackles King’s affairs without forcing the issue. Wisely, our attention is on the activity in Selma itself as the isolated White House conversations with Lyndon B. Johnson (Tom Wilkinson) are distant and detached. The talks between the two men seem strangely informal and blunt, with King spitting out ‘Sir’ as he concludes his requests. But this minor qualm doesn’t detract from the emotive depiction of the march itself. I’d be remiss if I forgot to mention Keith Stanfield’s tender portrayal of Jimmie Lee Jackson. He’s unforgettable – proving how his impressive turn in Short Term 12 wasn’t luck. But it’s Oyelowo who convincingly turns an iconic hero to a man who fears the future, but will fight for it with his life.

Rating: 8/10

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