Twitter Plot Summary: Martin Luther King’s peaceful march from Selma to Montgomery gets the big screen treatment. Racism, rednecks and religion abound.
As has been covered many times before, the civil rights movement in the United States is one that is rife with storytelling potential. The injustice perpetrated on Black Americans is certainly one of the darkest stories in modern history besides all of the very many tales to be told stemming from warfare and global terrorism. In many respects, the equality divide discussed in Selma is one that is still very relevant today, and while things are much better than they were in the 60s there is still a lot of work to be done – for the record this also applies to gender equality as well as race. With that said, the likes of Benediction Cumberbatch having to apologise for using what is apparently an incorrect term is a very silly state of affairs and people should really get their priorities sorted. A free thinking individual such as Cumberbatch is not the one you should be taking offence at, and that whole situation is perfectly summed up by David Oyewelo’s response to it. It’s a non-issue so let’s please just move along.
After deciding that the black movement isn’t progressing as quickly as it should be, King and his supporters head to Selma, Alabama to stage a large scale peaceful protest. Selma was chosen because it provided ample opportunity to have the protest covered on television, as without such coverage in front of the nation and the rest of the world, the movement was much more unlikely to make as advanced progress as it ultimately did.
As you might expect, the South don’t take all that kindly to King’s plans, and they are personified by Tim Roth’s Southern governor and some typically racist police officers.
All of this is carried by an outstanding performance by David Oyewelo as Martin Luther King Jr. He embodies the role so perfectly that it is almost impossible to separate the actor from the real life orator. Oyewelo is as powerful as King in many respects, none more so than his performance of King’s numerous public speeches. But he also proves to be equally as engaging in King’s private moments, be they of a personal nature with his wife and family, or of a slightly higher profile in audience with United States President Lyndon B Johnson (Tom Wilkinson). So strong is his performance that it almost doesn’t matter that the speeches in the film aren’t exactly the same as those he originally made. Thanks to some legal jiggery pokery, the copyright for those original speeches is owned by Stephen Spielberg, of all people and weren’t available to this production.
But then it doesn’t really matter what the words are because the thoughts behind them are the same. Who really has the right to say somebody else can’t vote when the system and the law says otherwise? By focusing on one specific event rather than attempting to portray King’s full life story Selma does what the likes of The Butler could not, and that is to put genuine focus on the issues at hand and to not overstretch itself. It’s just a shame that Selma didn’t receive any recognition in the awards season as it is fully deserving of the praise aimed in its direction.