Selma (12A)

Directed by Ava DuVernay
Picturehouse, Liverpool
Released on February 6th 2015

Reviewed by Colin Serjent

What readily springs to mind when watching this biopic of Martin Luther King Jr. is how relevant its portrayal of America in the 1960s is to contemporary times.

The obvious example being the recent events in Ferguson, Missouri, when an unarmed black man was shot dead by white police marksmen. This shameful act led to weeks of violence in various American cities, with political leaders, both black and white, pleading for reform of the criminal justice system in the name of equality.

On a less serious note, but still controversial, was the recent news about the Oscar nominations, when a mainly white group of people, suggesting very few of them to non-white actors, directors - Selma is directed by a black American woman Ava DuVernay - cinematographers, musicians, etc.

Although a very watchable film, not just a predictable run through of his famous speeches and confrontations with top politicians, including Lyndon B. Johnson, played well by Tom Wilkinson, Selma would have benefited from not having star celebrity actors such as Oprah Winfrey and Martin Sheen in the cast, to give it a more authentic feel.

King, based in Selma, Alabama, and his cohorts, helped to aid the civil rights movement, with him, thankfully, being painted as a three dimensional figure in the film, including his character faults.

Days after receiving the Nobel Peace Prize, he attempted to establish voting rights for blacks who had been systematically disenfranchised and intimidated, notably in the South.

Surprisingly DuVernay chose a British actor, David Oyelowo, not an American one, to portray King, which he does with elan.

Incidentally, he, along with Winfrey, and hundreds of others, marched in Selma in a tribute to King, in one of the many events staged throughout the USA, ushering a federal holiday on 19 January for the slain civil rights leader.

The movie should not be relevant in 2015 but sadly that is the case.

The question has to be asked, who are the figures of today who could match, or even surpass, the achievements of King? I guess the answer would be no one, such was the magnetism, authority and vision of King.

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