Selma is not just a good movie, but it’s the kind of movie that is built for award season. It’s front led with relatively new actors taking on the roles of huge and influential personalities. The cinematography and storytelling are poignant. The direction is completely spot on, and for something that wasn’t picked up by a major production company, the production value on the film is incredible.
So many good things are stuffed into this film and yet, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences didn’t choose to throw award nominations at this film’s feet. At this year’s Oscars, Selma was only nominated for two awards: Best Picture (which it lost) and the song Glory from its soundtrack for Best Song (which it won). The lack of love has been a huge point of contention for movie critics and movie lovers.
But this movie is so good that I don’t even want to get into all the ways in which the Academy is wrong. I want to do whatever it takes to convince you to financially support this movie.
Honestly, I wasn’t even going to watch Selma when I first heard about it. In my mind it was just another MLK movie, and I’ve been through enough history classes and read enough books to feel like skipping this movie wouldn’t be such a great social injustice. Wrong, just so wrong.
The first scene of this film is of MLK practicing a speech in front of his mirror. It’s generic and establishes the character we’re about to follow for the next hour and change. It’s the scene immediately after this one that grips your attention and firmly holds onto it until the end credits. What’s amazing is that it’s not a scene you would expect in a biopic, because it does not depict an event in which MLK was actually present. This scene, although brief, gives viewers a reason to be emotionally invested in this film.
The film goes on to cover the logistical side of one of the most significant marches in the Civil Rights Movement. As opposed to most biopics, which look to hit certain points in a person’s life, this piece directed by Ava Duvernay, brings a sharp focus to what it took to form a singular act.
There are layers to this film — ethical, personal, legal. It isn’t just “hey, look at this good thing that happened,” it’s not a clear line of good guys and bad guys. Yes, the bad guys are evident, but then you have the bad guys that aren’t so bad and the good guys that make countless mistakes.
It’s more than just the blind worship of an icon. It causes us to understand the icon as a person. It’s a look into history in such a way that classes and documentaries have not exposed and more than that it’s a visceral experience.
The camera does not shy away from the violence that these people endured, but it also doesn’t glorify it. And in a time when social justice movements are once again on the rise, this film is full of lessons that today’s activists desperately need.
Believe the hype about this movie. Go see it. Order it On Demand, or if it’s still in theaters near you, pay the money to see it. Take your family. Send the message to Ava Duvernay that although the Academy doesn’t see her, we see her and we respect the work she’s doing.
Image from Darienne News Online