Biographies often tend to want to include everything; too much. The last rather disappointing example I saw, was Long Walk to Freedom – wherein Idris Alba is depicting Nelson Mandela’s life. The movie was just to incoherent and fragmented. Even living in South Africa, I found it challenging to engage with the movie.
Selma to Montgomery
Selma depicts a similar struggle: the desire for racial equality. While Mandela was in jail for his ties to violent revolution in South Africa, Martin Luther King Jr. was strategising peaceful resistence in the USA. One of those ground breaking protests was a march from Selma to the Alabama capital Montgomery.
African-Americans had on record been given the right to vote, but tons of loopholes made it extremely difficult to near impossible for them to exercise that right. The march to Selma was planned as a peaceful protest, but on the other side of the bridge right out of Selma statetroopers and possemen attacked the protesters, using tear gas and clubbing bats. Television coverage resulted in an outrage across the USA and eventually President Johnson felt obliged to take the voting rights bill to Congress.
Selma gets right what Long Walk to Freedom di
dn’t; the movie focuses on a short but important fragment of the Civil Rights Movement’s struggle for equality. In doing this, Selma can give a thorough picture of King. David Oyelowo plays an excellent part adapting both King’s voice patterns and his mannerism in a compelling way. King is strong at times and vulnerable at many other and that adds character to the movie.
Especially the trials for the King family weigh heavily on the sentiment. King’s wife Coretta (strong performance by Carmen Ejogo) not only has to deal with the many threats to their family but also with accusations of her husband seeking company of other women. Coretta however does not give up on her husband but stands with him in his non-violent fight for equality.
Director Ava DuVernay chooses a slow pace to build up Selma. The pace however does not bore but gives us time to relate to the protagonists. And to see their flaws and internal demons. My only remark would be that the climax is a bit too long and not strong enough, but that is just me being fussy.
Selma – Ava DuVernay (Cloud Eight, 2015)