Selma: Film Review

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David Oyelowo was robbed of awards season nominations for his portrayal of civil rights activist Martin Luther King, Jr. in Selma. He gives a staggering performance that gives us a rare insight into the mighty public figure from his troubled home life to his doubts over his civil rights campaign.

This biopic depicts a very different period of King’s life than you would expect – not the famous ‘I Have a Dream’ speech or his assassination, but the three marches that took place from Selma to Montgomery in Alabama in 1965 to protest for black voting rights. We follow King and his Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) activists as they prepare for the march and how they deal with the fall out of “Bloody Sunday” – when the marchers were brutalised by white policemen.

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King has not been depicted in many films so I found it fascinating to learn so much about this highly regarded man that I knew very little about. He is held in such high esteem, but this film shows him as a real person, who required a lot of help along the way. He was not always strong in the face of adversity, he constantly fears death and he needs his SCLC group for support every step of the way. I never knew that before – you always think of him accomplishing everything by himself, but Selma gives time and credit to many key figures that helped change the voting rights and also show the white policymakers that are obstacles to King’s civil rights agenda, including George Wallace (Tim Roth) and President Lydon B. Johnson (Tom Wilkinson), although the latter eventually becomes a help.

I feel like Oyelowo, who packed on the weight to look like King, really captures the man when giving his storming speeches but is equally powerful in the quiet moments at home with his wife or when he is mourning the death of a campaigner. You really feel like the weight of the world is on his shoulders.

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I got rather emotional during the violent march scenes because I just cannot imagine this happening – but as we all know, police brutality on black people is still happening right now – which makes this historical piece feel relevant today. The march scenes are hard to watch but they are so important. I came away from this with a huge sense of awe of the bravery shown by King and the protesters to not only stand up for their rights, but to hold another march after the horrors of Bloody Sunday. A very powerful and moving look at the civil rights movement.

Out now

SEE ALSO: Director Ava DuVernay talking about the movie at London premiere

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