Saturday, January 10, 2015


I occasionally tease folks for how they seem to gush an extra little bit about the filmmakers they've met or otherwise interacted with, so I'll admit - Selma's director Ava DuVernay did once send me an email thanking me for reviewing I Will Follow about four years ago. Probably one of dozens, because it was a pretty great movie, and one also had to admire DuVernay for the hard push she and her African-American Film Festival Releasing Movement made to get a small film with an African-American cast into theaters.

So, yes, I felt more happy than I likely have any right to when I saw that she was the one directing a big movie that I already thought looked pretty good from the trailers. It's the pushed-for-Oscars big time, even more so because images of black people protesting how they feel disenfranchised are a lot more fresh than they should be. It's great to see, then, that she's up to it.

The funny thing is, I thought the review should have come out easier - it's one of those movies where everything is done well, so you ought to just be able to make a list. Instead, it ate much of the day, and I still didn't get to say how much I liked the music among other things. But, anyway - as good as you've heard Selma is, it is, in fact, that good.


* * * * (out of four)
Seen 9 January 2015 in Arlington Capitol #1 (first-run, DCP)

Selma stood a good chance of a big deal from the moment it was greenlit; it's the first feature film to focus on Dr. Martin Luther King, features excellent work by David Oyelowo in that role, and is generally built for prestige. Then 2014 happened, and suddenly a movie that was likely made with the idea of being a look at how things changed seemed to have a lot more to say about how things are (at least, to those of us who aren't living that reality every day). Fortunately, that's an extra burden that this film is well able to carry.

It covers a tight period, with Dr. King's receipt of a Nobel Peace Prize serving as a sort of prologue to his meeting President Lyndon Johnson (Tom Wilkinson), who urges King to focus less on voting rights than his planned War on Poverty, but King will not be deterred. So, he and several other pastors and civil rights activists converge on Selma, Alabama, where the groundwork for a major protest has been laid - one which will culminate in a march to the state capital in Montgomery.

Though marches and protests like the ones in Selma often feel like they just happened - they enter the historical narrative that way, as moments where widespread people with similar sentiments found themselves all moving in the same direction like a tide that surges up the shore - that's generally not the case, and the way Paul Webb's script recognizes this is part of what makes Selma fascinating. King, his wife Coretta (Carmen Ejogo), LBJ, Malcolm X (Nigel Thatch), and the younger activists who are native to Selma are all thinking in terms of tactics and strategy, explained quickly and clearly but without getting too bogged down in details.

Full review at EFC.

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