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Published On: Fri, Jan 9th, 2015

‘Selma’ review: Great film, great script, David Oyelowo – all Oscar worthy

Selma, the latest project release from Harpo Productions, opens in theaters later this month.

The film focuses on the timeline of events in 1965 leading up to the historic march led by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. from Selma, Alabama to the state capital of Montgomery as a peaceful protest regarding the African-American citizen’s ability to successfully register to vote in the South. The story unfolds showing the ridiculous extremes used by county clerks to justify not approving voter registrations, horrific attacks by the sheriff’s office and state troopers on peaceful protestors, and the ignorance promoted by elected officials which all contributed to this unlawful refusal to allow citizens to exercise their right to vote.

David Oyelowo as MLK in "Selma"

David Oyelowo as MLK in “Selma”

I tip my hat to the writer, Paul Webb, and director, Ava DuVernay, for generating a film that portrays Dr. King not only as the strong, inspirational speaker so many of us have only known through grainy black and white footage of his speeches, but also as a normal man struggling with the consequences of his decisions and the necessary sacrifices (his family life, the safety of his supporters, and his image in the eyes of the local and national population) that were made to overcome this particular battle. David Oyelowo, the relatively unknown actor cast in the role of Dr. King, definitely brings the script to life. Most impressive was his ability to not only deliver the popular speeches with the conviction and well-known inspirational qualities of this American icon, but also his ability humanize this historical figure and express the weight on Dr. King’s shoulders simply through his sad eyes throughout the production.

Despite the great script, excellent directing, and wonderful character portrayals by the cast, the true star of the film is the people of 1965 who chose to participate in these protests. It’s one thing to sign up for a walk as we so often do today in support of one or two of many deserving causes, but it’s a totally different thing to willingly walk directly into a battlefield, completely defenseless, knowing the hatred, unbridled cruelty, and inhumanity you are about to face…….and then do it again a few days later. Cameras were rolling. The country was seeing the beatings. And more people came to participate in the name of what was right.

I left the theater amazed at the courage portrayed on the screen and feeling ashamed that we didn’t seem to have that same courage in our communities today. But then I realized that because of their actions and the reforms for which they fought, we don’t need to show that kind of courage in our streets…..at least not for the right to vote. I’m sure there may be some inaccuracies as there often are in historical representations, but I truly hope that all young Americans see this film. I feel it is important to visualize and understand these dark chapters in our history in order to appreciate and preserve the rights and lifestyles that we have today and recognize how very far we have come as a nation.

The film’s violence and subject matter definitely earn it a PG13 rating. That said, I would strongly suggest parents of teens see the film with their children (even if they want you to sit in a different row) because there will definitely be conversations afterwards.

Overall Selma receives 4 1/2 out of 5 stars

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