Magazine article The Spectator

Cinema: Selma

Magazine article The Spectator

Cinema: Selma

Article excerpt

Selma

12A, Nationwide

Selma , the civil rights film that stars David Oyelowo as Martin Luther King, undoubtedly contains the best and most powerful performance of the year as not nominated for an Oscar. Oyelowo has said this is because Hollywood prefers black actors when they play 'subservient roles' and aren't 'the centre of their own narrative, driving it forward', which, alas -- and before I could help myself -- immediately made me think of Driving Miss Daisy (nine nominations, and winner of Best Picture over Spike Lee's Do the Right Thing ). So, a useful reminder that, in congratulating ourselves on how far we have come, we should not forget how far we still have to travel. (And that is your lesson for this week. Next week, I will think of another lesson to bore you with. If you are reading this on the day of publication ...only six sleeps to go!)

The film, as directed by Ava DuVernay, has, at least, been nominated for Best Picture, and tells the story of Dr King's triumphant crusade to win rights for black voters with the 1965 march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama. Yes, it is one of those films -- a biopic told via a particular, pivotal moment -- but it manages to avoid the pitfalls of most. It does not lecture. It does not act as if its source material were The Big Book of Important Bits of History You Should Know About, Dummy. Instead, this is about people, takes its lead from those people, and is full of life; bristles with a passion and energy as it deftly articulates that pivotal moment. This is the film The Butler would have been, if The Butler had been any good.

It opens with Dr King in Oslo, receiving the Nobel Peace Prize, and flirting a little with his wife (Carmen Ejogo) in the hotel room as she adjusts his tie. This is the man in the round, we are being told. A great leader and a great orator -- at the podium, he will tell Oslo that the black men and women of America are waging a battle against 'the starless midnight of racism' -- but a desirable husband, too. British audiences may not be as familiar with King's cadences and mannerisms as American audiences, so will be hard pressed to judge how well Oyelowo captures the actual man, but in the grand scheme of things, I'm not sure that matters. You just have to believe, and Oyelowo simply makes you believe. It's not just the force of him. Selma is as intimate as it is epic, and he is just as convincing in the smaller moments. There is one scene, in which he attempts to console a bereaved father, which may well break your heart. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.