Film review: Selma

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 11 March, 2015, 10:26pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 23 April, 2015, 12:29pm

David Oyelowo, Carmen Ejogo, Tim Roth, Lorraine Toussaint
Director: Ava DuVernay
Category: IIA

On July 2, 1964, the US Congress passed the Civil Rights Act outlawing discrimination based on race, colour, religion, sex, or national origin. Three months later, civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jnr was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

Ava DuVernay's Selma opens with King (David Oyelowo) and his wife Coretta (Carmen Ejogo) in Sweden, where all seemed right with the world. Very soon, however, a shocking scene involving four little girls, and a psychically painful one in which a black woman (Oprah Winfrey, who also co-produced) has impossible demands placed on her by a supercilious white male registrar, show there still were major obstacles to be overcome.

After getting little satisfaction from a meeting he had with President Lyndon B. Johnson (Tom Wilkinson) to discuss the issue of black people continuing to be denied their right to vote, King decides to accept the invitation of local black leaders to go to Selma, Alabama, to lead a dangerous campaign to secure genuine — not just legal — voting rights for a long-oppressed people.

Fifty years on, it's worth watching this astute dramatic snapshot of those tumultuous three months in 1965 that saw history being made.

More than just a Martin Luther King biopic, the first film ever to have him as a central character contains important messages that continue to resonate, and far beyond the US. Director DuVernay has crafted a cinematic work for the ages, with a magnificent performance from Oyelowo.

Selma opens on March 12