Film has always been one of the most powerful art forms for depicting important events in human history. It can be inspirational, informative, emotional and can incite discussion and even change. But it is also tricky sometimes depicting events without seeming heavy handed or preachy. And many times it is a challenge to make a story stay true to the facts while still crafting an entertaining film. In terms of pure power in portraying real events though, there have been many films that have succeeded brilliantly. Films like Schindler’s List, Gandhi, Gorilla’s in the Mist, Apollo 13 and Hotel Rwanda are a few that come to mind. This week we may have another one to add to the list with Ava DuVernay’s Selma.
David Oyelowo stars as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in Selma, which chronicles the three month period of 1965 when King led a controversial and dangerous campaign for equal voting rights in the United States. In the face of aggressive opposition, King led an epic march from Selma, Alabama to Montgomery, Alabama that helped lead to President Johnson signing the Voting Rights Act of 1965, one of the major turning points in the Civil Rights Movement.
Selma is a brilliant piece of filmmaking. What really impressed me is that director Ava DuVernay has pretty much only directed documentaries and TV movies up to this point, and was mainly in publicity in Hollywood. So for her to take on such an important movie and really knock it out of the park is truly impressive. But it isn’t just her directing that makes Selma great, it is the fantastic script by Paul Webb and the incredible ensemble of actors led by the phenomenal David Oyelowo that really elevates this film. This is top notch filmmaking and a fascinating portrait of an incredible man and his insatiable drive for justice. Oyelowo is so good here, he has really become one of the finest actors we have in Hollywood right now. The story of the march in Selma is such an empowering and inspirational one, it is wonderful that such a strong film has been made to capture the important time in history. Selma is beautiful to look at, gorgeously filmed, powerful, frustrating, sometimes enraging, very emotional and ultimately an important call to action that reminds us that although much progress has been made in civil rights, there is still much more to be done.