In Theatres: 
Dec 25, 2014
Running Time: 
127 minutes
Seeing double?

Carmen Ejogo has portrayed Coretta Scott King note than once.

It is almost impossible to over hype this film.  I’d heard words like “stunning” and “incredible”, but I guarded myself as I’m very careful about over hype. Too much effusive buzz can lead to massive let down and heartbreak, but if I were any less full of praise for Selma, I would be lying. Ava DuVernay has created an inspirational masterpiece.


Selma covers the trying times of the 1965 Selma to Montgomery voting rights marches. That were led by James Bevel, Hosea Williams, and Martin Luther King, Jr. of SCLC and John Lewis of SNCC.  However, it doesn’t stop there. Retellings of the Civil Rights Movement are notoriously patriarchal. Special attention is paid to Annie Lee Cooper (Oprah Winfrey), Diane Nash (Tessa Thompson), Coretta Scott King (Carmen Ejogo- her second time as Mrs. Scott King!), Amelia Boynton (Lorraine Toussaint ) and other women in the movement who were some of the first actors, worked behind the scenes, and walked on the front lines risking their lives in effort to gain the right to vote.  The past is prelude and considering our current political climate surrounding civil rights, it feels prescient.


Although each character is based on a real person, far too often the passage of time sees the edges worn round; they become sainted and sanitized. However, Paul Webb’s script clears that fog away and we get to see MLK and Coretta as completely human people who struggle with the choices they’ve made, the dangers they face, and the sacrifices they may have to bear.  David Oyelowo is a revelation as Martin Luther King. Decades old speeches sound fresh and engaging. You can see why MLK was a leader, but also how it wore on him and his family.


Selma takes you to backstage of the Civil Rights Movement., as it were. We are witness to fraught and frustrating meetings between MLK and Lyndon B. Johnson (Tom Wilkinson). How those in the movement knew they were being bugged and watched. Discussion about which way the movement should go. How the march, a Plan B, even came to be. Why SNCC and the established movement did not always get along. Even though the goal of freedom is shared, the path to achieve isn’t as agreed upon as folks might have you believe.


Gorgeously lit with strict adherence to the period, images are beautiful and slide across your eyes in rich tones. DuVernay employs the infamous COINTELPRO notes in an informative and chilling way--to narrate plans and scene changes. I’ve never seen so much of the audience remain seated through the credits, transfixed by what transpired. When asked by a studio representative what I thought of Selma, the only words that seemed to fit were truly excellent. The rep replied that she had never heard those words used so many times in one night.

Maria Jackson
Review by Maria Jackson
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