A review by Nalini Haynes
Selma was a focus for the 1960s African-American community’s campaign for the right to vote. Although technically African-Americans were supposed to be allowed to vote, in practice double standards imposed by white officials meant very few were registered to vote.
Over the years there have been many documentaries about Martin Luther King, his famous “I have a dream” speech and his assassination. This is NOT one of them. Although King features large in this movie, the focus is on the geographical shift to Selma as a focus for attention and one specific march that started in Selma.
Other African-American leaders feature in Selma too; I missed their significance until the end where typed citations indicated decades’ long service in human rights and political posts. A second watch is definitely in order so I can pick up more of the detail.
Even internal faction-fighting in the African-American community is acknowledged in Selma, everything from Malcolm X to people being angry with Martin Luther King for walking away after the troopers stand aside in the second march attempt.
I’m no expert on the events or the politics involved. I’ve watched a number of docos over the years but, without close study, my recollections of the events and the timeline are hazy. However, Selma stood out to me as a movie that, 50 years on, celebrates the sacrifices of martyrs injured and murdered by white people determined to prevent equality. In an era where ethnic minorities are once again having to press through against barriers designed to hinder them voting, Selma reminds us all of the foundation laid so long ago, a foundation that must be built upon lest it be lost.
Selma ends 3 years before Martin Luther King’s assassination in 1968 although it acknowledges King’s awareness that he could well become a martyr.
Selma was an interesting story that could have benefited from more screen time: there was so much more story to tell. After seeing notes on a white woman murdered hours after the march, on African-American men who became politicians, on people who stood together, I wanted to know them better. And what a fabulous cast! More screen time for them all, please. I gained a sense that Selma was the African-American community telling their own story, too: a valuable and precious insight. More please.
Director: Ava DuVernay
Writer: Paul Webb
Stars: David Oyelowo, Carmen Ejogo, Tim Roth
Rating: 4 and a half stars out of 5