Massive Focus

Selma (2014)
A Review By Ben Hunter
4 Out Of 5 Stars


Even though it looses its identity of what story it truly wants to tell, I still enjoyed myself. 


1964, Selma, Alabama Annie Lee Cooper (Oprah Winfrey), an elderly African American woman, attempts to register to vote.  Through heavy and harsh feelings towards minorities, segregation is unhealthily healthy.  Four little black girls are killed in an explosion within the confines of a church.  The courthouse is unfairly quizzical with Annie with unnecessary intrigue and denies her voter registration.  Without the ability to vote in a certified manner with proper registration, minorities have no function in society.  Basically it’s as if they’re still inferior in the eyes of the majority and as unregistered voters this status quo will remain triumphant.    

Selma is the story of the events leading up to The Voting Rights Act of 1965.  Where one of the events of the overall movement was nicknamed “Bloody Sunday” as minorities and even some whites were brutally attacked and murdered in the struggle for equality.

Ava DuVernay makes her presence known on the scene with the first major motion picture of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. as the centerpiece.  So as such, it was quite difficult to focus on anything but him.  I wanted to know what he was going to do next and how he personally fit into the picture.  This is good, as character development (the typical major problem I have with any enormous film that’s widely praised) was already accomplished and quite nicely.  Everyone knows who MLK is.  So that isn’t the case here.  That actually worked against the film in my book.  Actor David Oyelowo (Dr. King) was interviewed in how he could possibly take on such a monumental character, detrimental to the overall health and well being of our country.  Oyelowo affirmed that it was quite the task but the goal was to look at MLK as human and how that human reacted to the events.  I loved all of this.  But it kept furthering why I later realized after my screening of the film that I couldn’t truly connect with this story in all of its powerful, deeply heart hardening movement. 

David Oyelowo leads the voting rights movement in Selma, AL as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
In my book, Selma looses its focus with all the targeting of the recreation of the real, live, actual events and incorporating such a monumental character that lead the story.  Was it really about what happened at Selma?  Or was it a character study on MLK and the events of Selma are apart of that study to help us all understand him a better?  The title suggests the former and not the latter. 

I feel this way because DuVernay delves a little into the human Dr. King revealing some juicy facts that the average, MLK worshipping, American doesn’t know.  The kind of information you don’t play around with or beat around the bush.  If you’re going to go that route, then go that route kind of thing.  Selma dips and dabbles in this because that’s how it was in real life, but it only touches this.  Thus taking my interest away from Selma and SOLEY on MLK.  Saddly, I didn’t care about the 3 protest marches in hopes of justice for my fellow people.  I didn’t care about the young men who were present of the time of MLK and looked up to his leadership or even challenged it and learned from his wisdom because of it.  I wasn’t truly moved by all the brutality in the struggle for true justice or how victims and surprisingly WHITE victims paid dearly because of this.  I just wanted to know what MLK was going to do next and how his story was going to pan out, not Selma’s. 

This is my problem with a lot of films with massive characters that only share a story of a certain aspect of said character’s life.  Apart from the appearance issue with My Week With Marilyn (2011), the identity problem of the story, (is it Marilyn’s story or the kid’s experience on the set of one of her movies?) gave me the same thing.  This is the problem with taking on such a serious subject, where do you find the direction and focus?  Selma was no different. 

It would’ve been nice to see photos from the actual events with the real life people, as movies of this nature typically do at the end (the movie theater I saw this in had such photos up).  But we received stills from the set instead; with modern day music laced over it, something that REALLY grinds my gears. 

However, the scenes are emotionally gripping, they do have an affect on anyone with a heart, and I did enjoy myself. 

Drama, 128 Minutes, PG-13
Written by: Paul Webb
Directed by: Ava DuVernay
Cast: David Oyelowo, Carmen Ejogo, Tim Roth, Oprah Winfrey, Giovanni Ribisi, & Tom Wilkinson

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