The story of Martin Luther King’s attempt to achieve equal voting rights with a march from Selma to Montgomery in 1965.
What we have here is a film which is undoubtedly powerful, but not one that you would call enjoyable. I mean, it’s not an ordeal but where The Imitation Game played out like a thriller with some very important issues underneath, Selma is an issue movie.
The challenge the makers of Selma were faced with was making a film about un-speakable racial atrocities that is actually watchable, to get the balance between showing audiences the horror whilst not becoming physically difficult to experience. I think they do this fantastically, because while you really get the measure of the terrible acts during this period, it still manages to be a film rather than a list of horrific acts.
At the centre of the film is David Oyelowo’s performance as Martin Luther King, and while I haven’t seen much of MLK’s speeches so I don’t know how accurate it is, he clearly portrays that central charisma exceptionally well. But his performance isn’t just an impression, he also delves deeper into MLK into his personal life, and that is what makes this such a fantastic performance. His omission from the Oscar nominations is an odd one, and I would definitely hold him above Bradley Cooper in terms of performance and message (the overall message from American Sniper appearing to be “everyone from Iraq is evil”).
Staying on the subject of Oscar omissions, I can’t for the life of me think why Ava DuVernay hasn’t received a nomination for this, especially when Bennet Miller is nominated for Foxcatcher which didn’t get a best film nomination. In general Selma would appear to have been snubbed at all the award ceremonies in general, which is extremely odd.
Overall then, I wouldn’t recommend this as a date movie, but it is clearly very important and extremely powerful. I would say that out of all the best picture Oscar nominations, Selma is the most powerful.