Movie Review #937


Limited release on December 25, 2014. Nationwide release on January 9, 2015. Biography/Drama/History. This film is rated PG-13 for disturbing thematic material including violence, a suggestive moment, and brief strong language. Runs 128 minutes. A British-American co-production. Directed by Ava DuVernay. Written by Paul Webb. Cast: David Oyelowo, Carmen Ejogo, Oprah Winfrey, Tom Wilkinson, and Tim Roth.


By Alexander Diminiano

Ava DuVernay has created “Selma” carefully and passionately. The camera acts not as an eye but as a glass barrier. We have to power to watch hundreds of African-Americans protest the denial of their Constitutional right to vote; we just don’t have the power to help.

“Selma” begins as a heartbreaking movie, and has become an extremely profound one by the end. David Oyelowo is the major contributor to the film’s magnitude. His performance as the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. captures the activist exceptionally. A respectful, patient negotiator in one light, and in another light, a powerful orator who feels strongly about civil rights, and compels every one of us to feel the same.

“Selma” is a very violent movie, but it keeps a PG-13 through its clever utilization of the camera. Much of the violence in the film’s depiction of Bloody Sunday and Turnaround Tuesday is offscreen, but we wonder the same that we wonder watching the far more explicit “12 Years a Slave”: How could one human being ever treat another like this? In highlighting the police brutality that occurred during the marches from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, the film really strikes a timely key.

This movie presents a tremendously meaningful story, but leaves little room for our interpretation. There’s definitely some truth that’s been twisted in “Selma”, particularly in its depiction of President Lyndon B. Johnson (Tom Wilkinson); I, however, will refrain from saying anymore on this aspect, for which the film has gained its fair share of controversy already. “Selma” is also at the disservice of having “Glory”, a rap song by Common and John Legend, mismatched with the credits. If ever there was a recent film that failed so horribly with an anachronism, this was the one. It was up until that song that I felt like I was in a whole different era. From the film’s opening depiction of the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing, up until its final relaying of Martin Luther King’s riveting public speaking voice, “Selma” grips you in its important tale about race relations. To think that the narrative remains relevant today is both sad and remarkable.


4 thoughts on “Selma

  1. Great review !
    Now I want to see the movie…
    Your review was perceptive beyond your years; especially by invoking “anachronism” and realizing the modern statistics about the predicted fate of African American men who are
    Young Men as you are too.
    Dr Ed

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