Review: Selma

The emotionally powerful and politically timely Martin Luther King biopic deserved more recognition at the Academy Awards, argues

la ca 1021 selma ★★★★★

Director: Ava DuVernay
Starring:  David Oyelowo, Carmen Ejogo, Tim Roth
Running time: 128 minutes

Selma may be the most politically relevant film currently showing in cinemas. Throughout 2014, social media exploded with long-lying frustrations and anger focussed on police brutality against black people in America.

Selma seems to have found its natural context in a domestic sphere still reeling from the death of Michael Brown and the resulting protests in Ferguson. And now many are struggling to retain a voice in a world media that has seemingly moved on from the issue.

Based on true events, Selma tells the story of the Selma to Montgomery march of 1965, where many black American citizens fought for their right to vote. It has startling relevance today; at a time when protestors throughout Ferguson were attacked with tear gas and labelled as rioters by much of the mainstream media, Selma presents a chilling echo of current media narratives.

While the film has many strengths, its main appeal can be found in its casting; David Oyelowo gives a stunning, powerful performance, and it remains a mystery why bland performances such as that given by Benedict Cumberbatch in The Imitation Game were Oscar-nominated, while Oyelowo’s remains snubbed.

Credit, too, must be given to the director, Ava DuVernay; it’s rare to see women succeed in the mainstream film industry, let alone those from ethnic minorities, and it’s a travesty that DuVernay is yet to be nominated by the Academy.

Although there were some brilliant performances and directors nominated in this year’s Academy Awards, it’s also an undeniably un-diverse slew of nominations. In the midst of an endless liturgy of biopics, Selma retains diversity and cultural relevance. While The Imitation Game shies away from controversial themes (many have criticised the film for under-representing Alan Turing’s sexuality, for example), Selma tackles them head on. Instead of dulling certain issues, Selma makes rioting, violence, and tragedy its focal points: it’s shocking both emotionally and poltically.

Selma has been labelled ‘this year’s biggest snub’, and it tells us a lot about the culture of mainstream film that 2015 sees yet another Academy Awards dominated by white men making films about white men. Ava DuVernay and the talented cast she skilfully directs deserve recognition by the Academy.

And yet, I can’t bring myself to be surprised that they’ve been passed over for other actors and directors – this film may have just hit the nail on the head, emphasising discrimination in the industry.

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