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Review: Selma

Written by tha - bang from the blog Movies and Things with Thabang on 08 Feb 2015
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Maybe it’s the huge English cast playing Americans in Selma that made the Oscars snub this film? Or maybe it’s the portrayal of Martin Luther King Jnr as an instigator and troublemaker who's not afraid to touch whiteness on it’s white privilege studio that the Academy did not like? Whatever the true answer is, Selma is here and has been snubbed bigtime by the Oscars. Let's dig in for ourselves and see why?
 
Based on true events surrounding one of the most iconic civil rights moments, the march from Selma to Montgomery, to secure unconditional voting rights for African Americans. Selma storms in during the time of the #BlackLivesMatter campaign, Fergusson and #ICantBreathe campaign. The timing and similarity are astounding.

 

It’s amazing how what happens on the screen - things take place in the mid 1960’s - is still as relevant today in the year 2015. The issue of white privilege, white superiority complex, the police as a force against the black man, racial prejudice and a government (and president) who's impotent to do anything about structural state sanctioned racism is all in there to be seen by all, as it has been evident in Ferguson and the Trayvon Martin case to mention a few. Like they say, so many changes yet so much stays the same.

 

Kudos have to be given to Ava DuVernay (Director and the unofficial re-writer of the script) and Paul Webb ( the screenplay) for a very tight and concise screenplay. The screenplay is well put together, characters exist for a purpose and are paid off. Even the bit and supporting characters matter.
 
Then there’s what Ava DuVernay did with re-painting how we look at Martin Luther King (MLK) Jnr and the Civil Rights Movement. Today MLK like our very own Tata; has been made to be this very safe, pacifist who only preached unity. This is the MLK that is pushed generally but Ava reminds us of a very militant MLK who, although he believed in no-violence and cooperation, also believed in challenging white supremacy and calling it out.
 


The Civil Rights movement is not painted to be a bunch of go-lucky Christian brothers and sisters but people of blood and flesh who also had egos to be nursed and human failures. For example MLK’s affairs are not hidden, to show he too was human and no saint.
  
It’s quite ironic that all the key characters From MLK to the Johnson (the US president at the time) to the Governor to even King's wife are all played by Brits (and a lot of Brits with Nigerian connections). Tom Wilkinson is brilliant as Johnson and you can never go wrong with Tim Roth in anything.

Carmen Ejogo, who plays Coretta King (MLK’s wife), reprises the same role she played in the movie Boycott opposite her husband Jeffrey Wright who played MLK in that movie.


 
DuVernay gives Roth and Wilkinson flat out funny and racist lines that just give you a true sense of the times. David Oyelowo as the very diminutive MLK holds his own with this talent around him.

The rewritten speeches - since the film could not use the original speeches by MLK that a biopic by Spielberg and Warner Brothers that they've already bought (read more about it here) - are still given real fervor by David Oweloyo. By the time the march happens we all know what is at stake and why the march was needed.
 
It’s a pity the Oscars decided to snub the film cause this film speaks to our times in volumes. Not just the US even here in South Africa where in 2015 kids get rapped at school with a broomstick by white boys whilst others watch, where Curro schools separates kids according to race and our mothers are whipped in Cape Town street’s on accusation that they are prostitutes.

White privilege and white superiority complex is still alive and well and needs to be challenged. Cause aside for fighting for civil rights ,MLK was also challenging white privilege and trying to raise white consciousness


 
Then we have a president, who unlike Johansson, you wonder is he only thinking about 2015 and not 2065. Does he like Johnson ever think of how he would be remembered as president and his time in office by generations after our own?

I find movies that can carry messages that speak beyond just the immediate context very powerful and Selma speaks volumes. I hope more South Africans get to go and see this movie in spite of the Oscar snub. Aluta continua.
 
Rating ****
++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
index 
* Junk **Almost bearable ***Now we cooking **** Almost perfect ***** Classic
 
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++



2 Comments

makisto
08 Feb 2015 19:57

Great review Thabang, this is a must watch indeed! It's like every year a film about black people is produced and earns certain strides like we've seen last year in 12 Years A Slave. I'm not sure of David's CV but I would imagine, like him, this film is giving him a bigger break like Lupita in 12 Years. It's a great pity the Oscars are snubbing this film. Issues of race relations are still gonna plugue the globe for a very long time. As you say, so much has changed yet so much has remained the same. The very same fact that the film could have been snubbed because of the central issues the film tackles which exposes current day race relations, shows how little has changed. Thabang, is David the guy is also gonna star opposite Lupita in Colombiana?

tha - bang
09 Feb 2015 15:16

Hi @Makitso , i believe you referring to Americanah ? his defineatly in that with Lupita.
Thanks for the kind words about the the review. As for the snub 
even some great films and actors have not won
Oscars for some of their best work including leo,denzel etc.I think the cultural
significance of the film will stand the test of time.


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