Top 100 Films Of The 2010’s – #91 – Selma (2014)


RELEASED: 6th February 2015

DIRECTOR: Ava DuVernay

CAST: David Oyelowo, Tom Wilkinson, Carmen Ejogo, André Holland, Tessa Thompson, Giovanni Ribisi, Lorraine Toussaint, Stephan James, Wendell Pierce, Common, Alessandro Nivola, Lakeith Stanfield, Cuba Gooding Jr., Dylan Baker, Tim Roth and Oprah Winfrey

BUDGET: $20m

BOX OFFICE WORLDWIDE: $66.7m

AWARDS: 1 Academy Award (Best Original Song) and 1 Golden Globe (Best Original Song)

A chronicle of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s campaign to secure equal voting rights via an epic march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, in 1965.

 

Selma is a biopic drama focusing on the 1965 voting rights protests marches from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, led by Martin Luther King Jr. Beginning with Dr Martin Luther King accepting his Nobel Peace Prize in Norway and after the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing, he leads a dangerous campaign to secure a federal legislation that will allow black citizens to register to vote while government officials begin to use deadly methods to cease the campaign.

 

Ava DuVernay had directed a few documentaries and independent films before Selma, but this is when she came onto most people’s radars with this quiet and effective drama. The film serves as not only a glimpse into the mindset of Martin Luther King Jr., but also as a documentation of the events, from the death of Jimmie Lee Jackson to Bloody Sunday, and the advancements from the civil rights movement that led to the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The costume designs for that period are well realised by Ruth E. Carter, Bradford Young’s cinematography is really good here, particularly in scenes in which Martin Luther King Jr. is talking with Ralph Abernathy in a prison cell, just the way that scene is shot and lit is beautifully done. The one thing to take from this decade in Ava DuVernay’s work is she knows how to bring the emotional weight of the drama and the grim reality of these true stories (see documentary 13th and limited series When They See Us), so the fatal acts of violence against Jimmie Lee Jackson and James Reeb are well handled. While the ensemble has a who’s who of actors that have exploded this decade (particularly Tessa Thompson, Lakeith Stanfield, Stephan James and André Holland), The character you follow the most is obviously Martin Luther King Jr., and David Oyelowo gives a charismatically commanding performance with the lead role that, personally, I still believe he should’ve been Oscar nominated for me at least other Steve Carrell (that’s a whole different argument entirely for another time…maybe). The film highlights moments in where you feel like he’s carrying the weight of the world, how he strategies the protests and how effective they can be in Selma, whilst also highlighting how he was a flawed individual.

 

FAVOURITE SCENE: The first march reaches a line of state troopers at the end of the Edmund Pettus Bridge and when the marchers hold their ground after being ordered to turn back….it’s an effective edit of what follows between the brutality of the state troopers unleashing on the marchers, as well as using actual footage of Bloody Sunday as people watch on the tv’s.

FAVOURITE QUOTE: “Our lives are not fully lived if we’re not willing to die for those we love, for what we believe.” – Martin Luther King Jr. 

DID YOU KNOW: The Martin Luther King Jr. estate had already licensed the film rights for his civil right speeches to DreamWorks and Warner Brothers for a yet to be produced biopic. For this film, Ava DuVernay wrote new variations of those speeches.

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