'Selma' provides timely cinematic history lesson
February 4, 2015
Amongst the racial tensions that are brought up in our society today, the film "Selma" may give us something that is tried and true but it rings all the more true today with its reinvigorating story and believable characters.
Martin Luther King Jr. (David Oyelowo) is accepting an award for inspiring peace amongst a populace wanting freedom, but on the opposite ends of the Earth, peace is being shattered by a bomb that kills three young black girls in a church. When seeing this chilling opening to the film the audience stays silent as King Jr. must face this tragedy.
Facing this new fear in the black rights movement, King Jr. makes actions to rally a peaceful protest in Selma, Alabama, and to combat the prejudiced police department there. Through the time we spend in this movie each actor brings their own personal grace to the screen. Oyelowo heads the film and manages to encapsulate all the features that made King Jr. a great leader, while even touching upon the traits of him we have never considered before; King has his doubts about the movement, about whether any change will come from this, and that even if it does it will only be a drop in the puddle for all civil rights.
Peering into this side of the influential civil rights leader made for a fresh and humanizing take on his life that addressed just how stressful and hopeless a journey like his even seemed.
As King Jr. makes his journey to fight against the fear mongering and discrimination perpetuated in the Selma police force. He is flagged by people from all backgrounds who share his vision. These people help to create the backbone of this film's impact and message.
Those who kept an ear to the ground for this movie know that Oprah Winfrey plays a role, and while that role is important in some regard, many actors take up roles of regular people, some of whom suffer through the intolerance and hatred along with their fellow men of a different color.
The small performances peppered throughout this film help to really supplement the movement that King Jr. created during this time, and each is helped along with the direction. Director Ava DuVernay commands the trials and marches King Jr. faced with great respect and raw realism.
Each scene where protesters are marching feels grand and powerful with the marching of people and staccato of feet, set to gospel music that rallies them to a cause. What DuVernay does in "Selma" is something exceptional to see and can even bring a tear to your eye when one sees every protester get beaten down into the dirt.
My only complaint that goes to this film is that it does feel like something done before. Films that try different things and experiment with the genre should be allowed more attention in this world, and this film's messages and direction have been seen elsewhere, even if it is done well.
But the messages of "Selma" are timely. With events like the Ferguson riots and the subsequent shooting of civilians by police that followed months after and are still given attention to this day. "Selma" serves as a reminder that prejudice cannot be extinguished easily; it lingers at the backs of minds and can cause people to do very irrational things. Despite that, "Selma" respectfully reinvigorates the ideals of peaceful protest and change that King Jr. preached in his day to change all that.
By the end of my showing, something interesting happened: there was clapping. It wasn’t loud, nor was it quiet, but it was a respectful clap from the audience; a recognition, an acknowledgement, an understanding of the film's message and the greatness that can be inspired in not one but thousands. For "Selma," I think it did its job perfectly.
Ryan Funes is a lover of all things movie, TV, video games and stories and wants to become a television writer someday. In his spare time he enjoys hanging with friends, tapping into his imagination, and watching cartoons of all kinds.