Wednesday, February 17, 2016

What-I'm-Watching-Wednesday: Selma

Selma (2014), directed by Ava DuVernay and written Paul Webb, is a historical drama based on the 1965 voting rights marches in Alabama. It’s an absorbing look into the personal and public struggles of Martin Luther King, Jr., and his circle to gain voter equality for African-Americans.

The film opens with King (David Oyelowo) receiving the Nobel Peace Prize. However, this award is quickly contrasted by the harsh reality of life for African-Americans in post-desegregation South. Four innocent girls are killed in a KKK bombing of an African-American church in Alabama. The film reveals that violence against African-Americans is going unpunished because of the legislative power of white politicians. Since African-Americans were denied the right to vote by Byzantine laws and local practices in the South, they were prevented from changing the political leadership. King implores President Lyndon B. Johnson (Tom Wilkinson) to pass legislation for voter equality to ensure that African-Americans can fulfill their legal right to vote and, even, register to vote. The film shows the delicate political wrangling going on between King, Johnson, and Alabama governor George Wallace (Tim Roth). King and his supporters embrace non-violent demonstration to protest voting inequality. Faced with bigotry and violence, the civil rights movement deals with tragic costs. There are scenes of brutality, both from police and individuals, where peaceful protesters are injured and murdered. Due to the well-publicized nature of the Selma to Montgomery marches, the movement gained supporters, including Caucasian clergy members. And the rest is history.

DuVernay’s direction throughout the film is beautifully understated. There are gripping scenes of protesters of various races and denominations crossing a bridge in Selma. However, some of the most powerful scenes are private moments. During a car ride, King debates the course ahead while John Lewis (Stephan James) reminds him of his own words. David Oyelowo portrays Martin Luther King, Jr. as a principled, charismatic leader who is steadfast in the cause for racial equality. However, his nuanced, sensitive performance is balanced with King’s occasional uncertainty about his path and the effects on his family and his wife (Carmen Ejogo). The supporting cast include Tim Roth, Martin Sheen, Common, Lorraine Toussaint, Giovanni Ribisi, Cuba Gooding, Jr., Niecy Nash, and Dylan Baker. Oprah Winfrey, also one of the film’s producers, has a small role as a beleaguered, would-be voter.

Selma received a number of accolades. The film won “Best Song” from the Golden Globes and was nominated for “Best Motion Picture – Drama,” “Best Director,” and “Best Actor” (Oyelowo). DuVerney’s Golden Globes nomination is a first for an African-American female director. The film also won “Best Song” at the Academy Awards and was nominated for “Best Picture.”

Selma is one of the many films held by the Ort Library. Films are searchable in the Library's catalog, and can be requested by clicking on the yellow "Request" button. Log in using your 14-digit Library barcode number (located on your University ID), and your last name. You will then be able to select your pick-up location. The Library will notify you via email when your item has arrived for pick-up. If you need assistance with this process, please contact the Circulation Desk at 301-687-4395.

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