Film review: Selma (9 out of 10)

One of my earliest memories was watching the BBC Newsflash announcing the murder of Martin Luther King Jnr in 1968.

Saturday, 7th February 2015, 7:34 pm
David Oyelowo as Martin Luther King jnr
David Oyelowo as Martin Luther King jnr

Even then I was aware that here was a bookmark in history.

That dramatic day has been the core of many dramas about the man but it’s refreshing that this movie focuses on one of King’s most famous victories three years earlier - getting the law changed so there were no loopholes in the voting system.

The energy for this campaign centred on the town of Selma in Alabama, where the minority white inhabitants ruled with a rod of iron, ensuring that only they could vote.

David Oyelowo as Martin Luther King jnr

British born David Oyelowo plays King with great authority and shows the human face behind the legend.

While Oyelowo can’t quite manage some of the inflections in the voice that distinguished King, he provides plenty of passion and throws up the question of why he has been missed out in various award nominations.

Perhaps strangely for a subject matter that is so embedded in the US, many of the leading players come from the \UK.

This includes King’s wife Coretta played by Carmen Ejogo, along with Tim Roth as Gov. George Wallace and Tom Wilkinson as President Lyndon B. Johnson.

In Fact Wilkinson seems to have played far more Americans in recent times than Brits.

Director Ava DuVernay has quite an extensive CV, with a lot of TV work, but provides an excellent movie, showing the politics behind the Civil Rights Movement and not stinting on the brutality and violence of the period, icluding a dramatic start that literally made me jump.

Perhaps one of the strongest messages that comes across is that so many lives were lost in the battle to secure basic human rights.

And while younger generations may be bewildered by the racism shown on the screen, this film keeps alive the memory of those who died to ensure proper freedoms today.

Film details: Selma (12A) 128mins

Directors: Ava DuVernay

Starring: David Oyelowo, Carmen Ejogo, Tim Roth

Screening courtesy of Horsham Capitol