Tag Archives: David Oyelowo


I know who Martin Luther King was. But this movie made me realize how little I know about what he went through as a leader in the civil rights movement, and it was just a tiny sample of what must have gone on throughout the 1960s (and beyond). It made me want to learn more and I think that is an important accomplishment. It has now been 50 years since the events in the movie actually took place, and I think the horrors that went on need to be remembered so we can try to learn from them (because we do still have a lot to learn). All of this is in the background. This movie would be notable for that alone, and it is hard to separate out the fact that what we are seeing actually happened, which I have been trying to do so I can then judge Selma as a movie and not just as something that needs to be seen as a record of important events.

The events in this movie are horrific. It is difficult to imagine that any of them could ever have happened, but then you remember that things like this still DO happen, that for some reason the USA still can’t or won’t indict cops who kill black people (and it is not just a US problem, the recent incidents just happened to take place there). And still that is only a small part of the big picture, because it is not just “white, black and other”. There are lots of concurrent struggles for equality going on, still, with no resolution in sight. We have made some progress but not nearly enough (and as a straight white male what I would consider enough may not even actually be enough, which makes it even clearer that 50 years later we still aren’t close to achieving real equality).

I would not likely have thought about any of this today if I hadn’t watched Selma, and it goes to show again that regardless of how well this movie was made, I am glad I saw it.  But here’s the thing: this movie is incredibly good. David Oyelowo IS Martin Luther King. He is phenomenal. He would have carried this by himself but he does not need to. Everyone involved is intent on making this movie the best picture of the year. Their love and respect for the subject matter drew me in from the very start. I do not think this movie could be any better. Because of the subject matter I cannot promise that you will be entertained but I can promise that you will be moved.

Ten out of ten. See it.


Ooof. I confess, I don’t really know how to review this movie. Why does it feel different from any other movie? Because it’s a piece of art? A piece of history? No, it’s because this is a piece of heart, of our collective hearts. This story is an act of remembrance, an act of grace.

Matt, Sean and I attended the screening of this film at Silver City last night and I’ve been sitting with it ever since, wondering how I can add my voice to what’s being said about this movie. This is not just a history lesson. The images of protest, of indignation, of police brutality, of black people being gunned down for no reason, these could just as easily be ripped from today’s headlines as from 50 years ago. That’s the part that will scrape raw at your conscience, as it did mine.

selma-movie-posterAnnie Lee Cooper is an older black woman registering to vote, as is her right as a supposed American citizen living in Selma, Alabama. The registrar is white, and resorts to dirty tricks in order to deny her once again. She leaves, slump-shouldered and dejected. Annie Cooper is played by Oprah Winfrey in the movie. I’m not normally a fan of stunt-casting, but in this case, using America’s sweetheart, a respected, powerful and highly successful personality who is also a black woman, to remind us just how far we’ve come in just 50 years, is pretty much the most perfect casting in the history of the world. Winfrey plays it winningly, with all the dignity the role deserves.

Insert Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr (David Oyelowo). He and his crew arrive in Selma to unite the people, to stir up activism, to attract the attention of the president (LBJ, played ably by Tom Wilkinson) and force him to do something about this supposed right to vote. Of course the president is reluctant, has his own agenda, and so King and company use their non-violent protest to force action in a genius and tragically necessary way.

The cinematography is a subtle tip of the hat toward realism. The costuming, particularly the suits worn by LBJ (those shoulders!), is pitch-perfect. The casting is strong. On paper it seems a bit weird to employ so much British talent to portray American icons, but it works. Oyelowo does a great job of shouldering the man and the spirit, the hero and the human being, without impersonating him.

It is hard to sit and watch this film. Director Ava DuVernay knows this and even uses it, with a stirring montage of Americans of all kinds watching horrified as the events unfold across their evening news, mirroring our own choking dismay.

DuVernay succeeds in stringing together a lot of different plot points in the course of the Selma events – the internal struggles of the organization, King’s problems at home, his grief and self-doubt, and government apathy or outright hostility on all levels. The film works so brilliantly because, while it stays humble in its scope, it becomes a representation for the movement as a whole, and for all the smaller victories along the way that led to real change. This flexibility in her story-telling is skillful and impressive and I can’t wait to hear her name announced as an Oscar nominee  (I won’t even say if), the first black female director ever to make the list.

Please see this movie. I can’t say that enough.