Despite some historical inaccuracies “Selma” is surpassingly worthy of audiences from the age of ten and beyond. Insightful, instinctive redolent performances, especially by David Oyelowo as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.; a half century has passed, today’s society is informed by incidents revolving around the deaths of Eric Garner and Michael Brown; sorrowful examples of history repeating itself.
Director Ava DuVernay, after years of frustrations, with the aid of Hollywood heavies, Oprah Winfrey (poignant performance as activist Annie Lee Cooper) and Brad Pitt, valiantly portrays the life and influence of a peaceful, brilliant man destined to change the world; that man, Martin Luther King Jr. was black, and was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964, the year President Lyndon Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act. DuVernay, “overcomes” the blockage, restraints of not being able to use any of King’s archival speeches; Oyelowo ( British, Nigerian pedigree) stuns with his interpretation of King’s mesmerizing oratory.
“Selma’s” power lies in the emotional, heart-wrenching months leading to the march from Selma, Alabama to its capital, Montgomery, on March 25th, 1965; horrific brutality exhibited by the authorities on March 7th, 1965, “Bloody Sunday”, the first (of 3) attempts to “march”; television, a huge factor in inspiring people from all factions of the human spectrum to join Martin Luther King in his iconic mission; validated by Lyndon Johnson when he signed the Voting Rights Act on August 6th, 1965.
Problematic is Tom Wilkinson (fine British actor) cast as President Johnson; a wimpy, whiney depiction of a man that had to be cajoled by King to sign the voting act; undoubtedly, he was a much fiercer, stronger force. Tim Roth as sleazy, bigoted Governor George Wallace captures the man’s lack of morality but lacks the piercing, maniacal bellicosity of Wallace’s rants. Carmen Ejogo, as Coretta Scott King blesses the portrait with wisdom and sensitivity.
“Selma’s” travesties, indignities teach invaluable lessons; lessons yet to be learned in contemporary life; barriers yet to be stricken, allowing the path of righteousness to prevail and Martin Luther King, Jr.’s philosophy to bloom, restore and heal.