Selma (2014) ***

A historical drama, Selma was directed by Ava DuVernay to a screenplay by Paul Webb and DuVernay. The story revolves around a turning point in the history of the American Civil Rights Movement; the events that took place in Selma around 1965. It includes the hate-crime in which four young black girls were murdered, followed by the bloody protests and the famous march from Selma to Montgomery, a march that was led by James Bevel, Hosea Williams, Martin Luther King, Jr. and John Lewis. The film stars several British actors including David Oyelowo as King, Tom Wilkinson as President Lyndon Johnson, Tim Roth as George Wallace, Carmen Ejogo as Coretta Scott King, as well as American rapper and actor Common as Bevel.
Selma is an important film for one single reason: the events that took place fifty years ago should not be forgotten. While that may seem like ancient history to some of us, racism is still alive and well today. In fact, on a personal note, when I saw the movie, my thoughts were, oh my, how long have we, the American people, come along since Selma. Yet, the following morning, I was made aware of a recent incident of a hate-crime in Minnesota, where a young African-American girl was being bullied for the color of her skin (click here for more info about this). It is infuriating and sad that in half a century later, some people still look at others and all they see is the color of their skin, their gender and their religious affiliation. For that and that alone, Selma hits the mark.
The acting is very good, especially by David Oyelowo as King, being able to portray a depth of personality. We watch King, the leader, meeting with the president of the USA, and making a stand; we hear King the preacher, a natural at exciting the crowds, but we also observe King at his weaker moments; whether when subtly, yet in no uncertain terms, challenged by his wife about his extramarital affairs, or when receiving discoursing news from the front. Tom Wilkinson, Tim Roth and the other members of the cast also do a superb job, conveying the personas of the characters involved in this grand human drama.
On the other hand, Selma, the film, suffers from inconsistencies in direction and writing; moving from occasional rhetoric and long boring moments, to highlights of drama, suspence and engagement. This takes away from a story, that is otherwise engrained into our lives to date. I also noted that the actual film quality – at least the copy I have seen in the cinema, had a milky quality to it -- yet another unnecessary distraction.
Selma should be watched, just with lower cinematic expectations and a high focus at the message at its heart.