The story of what Martin Luther King did in Selma, Alabama back in 1965 is an incredibly important one, and it’s a story that should be known by all. It was there that he led the campaign to secure equal voting rights for African Americans by leading marches and non-violent protests in an attempt to gain the attention of the nation. In the end, he and his allies won the day and helped change the landscape of the United States forever; however, the war for true equality without discrimination was long from over, and in many cases, continues to rage on today.
It’s hard to review this film without mentioning Ferguson, Missouri or the most recent happenings in Baltimore. While America has come a long way since 1965, there’s no denying that one just has to turn on the news to see that there’s a constant mix of two steps forward, one step back, one step forward, two steps back taking place when it comes to the fight for equality.
Ava DuVernay’s Selma focuses on the three months that King spent in the Alabama town while trying to convince President Lyndon Johnson to sign a bill that would see African Americans gain their right as a citizen of the United States to vote in any election. While certain parts of this righteous battle are skimmed over, and the characters outside of King and his relationships with them aren’t as developed as one might like, the vital aspects are brought to the forefront to help keep the narrative moving along at a steady pace.
British actor David Oyelowo plays King brilliantly, bringing the internal and external struggles and burdens this man had to face to life in often-uncanny fashion. His speeches are inspiring, and much like King, Oyelowo brings a presence that’s easy to rally behind. In fact, the acting in the film is phenomenal all around.
And as silly as it may sound, I often wonder what attracts an actor to a more controversial role. In this case, let’s focus on Tim Roth, who plays Alabama Governor George Wallace. Wallace constantly stood against segregation and equal rights for African Americans. While it’s a script and in no way reflects Roth’s own beliefs, the words he speaks are so hateful and cruel at times that I’m curious if the actor takes on the part to make the character as despicable as they can so that audiences see how gross this line of thinking is.
There are scenes that are hard, but important to watch, such as the beatings that occur on the bridge during the first marching attempt from Selma to Montgomery. It’s an incredibly powerful scene that brought on the same emotional reaction in me now that it did with the viewers watching at the time felt when seeing it live – a reaction that brought thousands more marchers to the front lines in Selma, both black and white alike, to stand up for our fellow man and their right to be treated as equals.
Director Ava DuVernay has created a poignant, and powerful film that focuses on one of the many crucial battles King fought during his life and recreates the nervous tension felt during this time incredibly well. While its inclusion in the Best Picture category at the Oscars was shocking to some, there’s no denying that Selma is a great film that deserves to be seen about events that should never be forgotten. The parallels with current events that are found within the film are just proof that for as far as we’ve come there’s still a long way to go before one man’s dream can come true.
The Blu-ray transfer of the film looks crisp and clean throughout most of the film, and shines far above its DVD counterpart on that front. The audio mix is really well done, with both the score and dialogue always complimenting one another instead of one overpowering the other.
There are over an hour of extras to be found on the Blu-ray version of the film:
Audio Commentary with Director Ava DuVernay and David Oyelowo — These two have great back and forth chemistry, and share a bond that’s definitely grown over the course of their recent works together. This commentary focuses more on the shooting locations, characters and their thoughts on the film and story. It’s less technical than the one that follows, but both have their own pros and cons!
Audio Commentary with Director Ava DuVernay, Director of Photography Bradford Young, and Editor Spencer Averick — This is the technical side of things, and a more behind the scenes look at how the film was put together from a filmmaking standpoint.
The Road to Selma — This featurette runs just over 13 minutes in length and talks about the events leading up to finally bringing Selma to life on the big screen, how it went through various directors, Oprah getting on board, and Oyelowo’s preparing to become such an important and iconic American figure even though he’s British.
Recreating Selma — The biggest feature found on the disc is this one, coming in at 26 and a half minutes in length. Here we look more at those who surrounded King during these trying times, as well as shooting in the town itself, recreating some of the more violent scenes, as well as a look at the art/costume design in the film.
Deleted Scenes — There are 13 deleted scenes found here, some of which give a bit more character development, and others that are extended versions of other scenes.
Music Video — The music video to the Oscar winning song “Glory” by John Legend Ft. Common. An extremely powerful song that evokes the same emotions found within the film.
Historical — There are some vintage newsreels to be found here, and images, some of which were used within the film.
On the DVD side of things:
Selma Student Tickets: Donor Appreciation — This is a two minute listing of all the supporters from the Selma Student Ticket Initiative. Probably not something you’ll watch unless you’re looking for your name!
National Voting Rights Museum and Institute — This featurette comes in at just under eight minutes in length and takes the viewer on a tour of the museum.
Paramount Pictures Presents Selma. Directed by: Ava DuVernay. Written by: Paul Webb. Starring: David Oyelowo, Carmen Ejogo, Tom Wilkinson, Tim Roth, Oprah Winfrey, Giovanni Ribisi. Running time: 128 Minutes. Rating: PG-13. Released: May 5, 2015.
Tags: Ava DuVernay, David Oyelowo, Martin Luther King, Selma