It started with the brazen murder of a Black man by police in broad daylight.

 

 

"Selma" is an important, moving, film which sets a new standard for dramas about Martin Luther King Jr. and the Civil Rights Movement. Everyone should see it, for its historical value, for the light it shines on continuing systemic racism, and because it’s a fantastic movie.

David … does an exceptional job at filling a tall order. His performance captures the soul of King and does well enough with the sound and rhythms of his speech, though moreso in the mundane moments than the public orations. This flaw is magnifed by the inability of the film to use any of King’s speeches, forcing the director to write her own. Like every attempt to match King’s compositions over the last 50 years, this one is not entirely succesful.

But this is a minor fault in a fabulous film.

"Selma" captures the nuances and complexities of the movement as few dramas have. The personal life of King and his family; the jocularity and comraderie among members of SCLC; the tensions with SNCC; the ordinary bits between the battles.

The tender and strained moments between Martin and Coretta are important and

 portrayed. The way the director imagines her way into the conversation between Martin and Coretta about infidelity is perfect.

The depiction of Bloody Sunday is wrenching, and the scene debriefing Turnaround Tuesday conveys the complexity and mystery of the events.

Oprah’s early scene as …. , and the absurd obstructions placed on her by the County Registrar as she tries to register to vote, is important for setting the historical reality and the stakes of the struggle.

 

 

Common is a fine actor and the spitting image of James Bevel in this movie. Likewise, the actor who plays John Lewis is convincing, down to the shape of his mouth when he speaks. The Diane Nash and Baryard Rustin characters are also well-cast, as is Coretta King and many others.

 

Easliy the most frustrating aspect of the film is the fact that they didn’t have the rights from the King Estate to use any of King’s speeches. So in a film of commendable and impressive historical accuracy, the centerpiece of King’s career–his oratory–is the one false note. It’s not surprising that a speech wrtten by a film director "in the style of" Martin Luther King does not rise to the magic and transcendence of an actual speech by one of the greatest speakers ever.

It’s not that I expected anyone to equal King’s speaking. That would be like complaining that the actor playing Michael Jordan in the bio-pic couldn’t ball like Mike.

It should not be a slight to any mortal that their speech isn’t Martin Luther King’s, "Our God is Marching On."

King’s speech at the conclusion of the Selma-to-Montgomery March is one of his greats, with its refrains of "We’re on the move now," and "How long? Not long!" 

But these are quibbles. The bottom line is, "Selma is a fantastic, important film, with a great director and a knock-out cast.

 

 

Showing King smoking is an important, real touch.