Merry Christmas MMT Family! I am so excited to this share this review for SELMA, which opens Christmas Day limited release in NY, LA, ATL and D.C. – and nationwide on January 9. I am not exaggerating when I say I believe this film to be the best film of 2014.
For me it is cinematic perfection from start to finish – the story well-written, the acting superb, a wonderful all-star cast, and the film itself visually stunning. The latter adjective courtesy of cinematographer Bradford Young, who also worked with “Selma” director Ava DuVernay on her highly acclaimed film “Middle of Nowhere.” Both DuVernay and Young’s names are in the running as early award season favorites – DuVernay being the first female African-American director to receive the Golden Globe Best Director nomination, with “Selma” receiving three additional Globe nods, and two films Young worked this year “Selma” and “A Most Violent Year” getting AFI Best Film listed and named National Board Review’s Best Picture respectively.
For those not familiar, Selma is the story of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. leading the historic marches to secure voting rights for African-Americans – a dangerous and terrifying campaign that culminated with the epic march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, and led to President Johnson signing the Voting Rights Act of 1965. DuVernay also serves as an uncredited writer, and executive producer along with Brad Pitt and Oprah Winfrey. Winfrey also appears in the film as civil rights activist Annie Lee Cooper.
Two of the many things I enjoyed very much about Selma were the film’s depiction of the female involvement in the civil rights movement and the nuances displayed in King’s personal relationships. DuVernay does not shy away from the documented extra-marital affairs that plagued King’s marriage to wife Coretta, and chooses instead to show Dr. King in his first big-screen depiction exactly as he was – both a flawed and selfless human being who achieved and sacrificed greatly for the sake of the masses. To read more about DuVernay’s choice to depict King in a nuanced fashion, and what some of the King family members thought about the film, check out my Celebrity Examiner article here.
And with the aforementioned Winfrey, Carmen Ejogo as Coretta Scott King, Lorraine Toussaint,Tessa Thompson, and a great cameo with actress/comedienne Niecy Nash, the female power in this film was outstanding.
My favorite cameo in film was the vocal powerhouse Ledisi, who depicts gospel great Mahalia Jackson. DuVernay was involved in selecting the entire cast and described to MMT how she came to offer Ledisi the role, “I’m just a huge Ledisi fan! I saw her at a party in LA and asked if she ever acted. She hadn’t, but stated she would be interested. I told her I might have (a role), and about a month later we called her.”
And I’d be remiss if I didn’t take time mention David Oyelowo (pronounced o-yellow-o) in the lead as Dr. King. To say he is mesmerizing would most certainly be an understatement. While she discussed her taking on the challenge of re-writing some of King’s speeches for the script, I shared with DuVernay how powerful I believed the speech in a eulogy scene was – with Oyelowo delivering words that paralleled the calls to action with current civil rights/police protests. Ava quickly responded, “David Oyelowo is 90% why the speeches worked. He is incredible, and people must learn his name – it’s just yellow with two O’s!”
If you live in or near NY, LA, ATL, D.C., I urge you to support this film over the Christmas holiday this weekend. For everyone else, the film will open January 9 – 10 days before the national observed King holiday. Selma’s 2015 release also occurs in the same 50th anniversary year of the 1965 Voting Rights Act – serving as a timely reminder of how far we have and have not come collectively as a nation within the past half of a century.
You can watch the trailer for SELMA below, and checkout the official website here for additional info and ticket sales.
Until next thought family, Thomasena