Movie #200 2020: Selma (2014)

I have to start this review with this: This 👏🏻 should 👏🏻 not 👏🏻 be 👏🏻 happening 👏🏻 today. It’s maddening and anger-inducing that this sort of thing is what we are still fighting for in 2020, but I am very happy that this marks the 200th movie milestone on TQR.

It’s really eye-opening to hear people currently lobbying for African American history to be included in school curricula. I distinctly remember being in history class at school and learning about the events of Selma and Bloody Sunday, about Martin Luther King Jr., about Emmett Till and Booker T. Washington, about sit-ins, and Rosa Parks, and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. We did have this stuff in our curriculum. In my ignorance, I just assumed that everyone learned about it. But I have since learned that I am sorely mistaken. This is not just a problem in the UK, but schools in the USA don’t teach their kids about this stuff either – their own history. It was really confusing for me at first – because I was taught all of this at school! – but I understand now that my school must have been an anomaly in this regard.

Ava DuVernay‘s 2014 hit Selma is perhaps the only exposure that many young people in the United States have had of these protests, so it was absolutely pivotal that she do a good job with it. And she definitely does what she set out to do. Bear with me here, because I’m going to give you a little lesson on some of the issues in this movie that also pertain to our modern climate.

Everyone would do well to hear the story of Selma, whether you studied at my casually progressive school or not. Black people should give this a go so that they can understand the importance of their vote even today (and help to vote that dick out of the Whitehouse!) More importantly, white people should watch so they can understand how to be on the right side of history, as this is no different to what is going on in the world today.

When viewing, you will immediately see the similarities between the march to Montgomery and today’s protests around Black Lives Matter. What starts off as peaceful becomes violent, more often than not because of the police force who meet the marchers head on with horses and guns. It didn’t work then, and it doesn’t work now, yet, they persist. How this is still going on in 2020 is absolute insanity, and Dr. King himself would be so disheartened to see it.

Of course in Selma, the African American fight is about the rights of black voters, not police brutality. But guess what? Voting rights are still not perfect in the USA either. Yes, black people technically have the right to vote in the states. But do you know how many people are turned away because they don’t have photo ID? And guess who is the least likely to have photo ID? African Americans. In fact, at least 13 per cent of black people do not have photo ID, leaving so many of them still unable to vote. (This, again, seems crazy to me. Coming from the UK, all we have to do is register and turn up. You don’t even need to take your polling card with you to post your ballot.)

This is hotly debated in the USA, as many claim (including, again, that dick in the Whitehouse) that voter fraud is a bigger thing than it actually is. Investigations into the 2016 election, for example, found only 7 cases of voter fraud, one of which was a woman who had voted for Tr*mp twice. Will 7 measly votes swing an election? Not in a million years. The idea of ‘voter fraud’ itself is a myth, and is just another factually debased loophole to stop people of colour from voting. Both this type of discrimination and police brutality are covered in Selma, and sadly are both issues that are still plaguing society over 50 years later.

Okay, back to the movie. (I literally don’t even care that this turned into a lecture; people need to know these things.)

Selma is littered with some brilliant performances. Every single actor here is spot on with their characterisation, especially David Oyelowo as Dr. King himself (side note: I cannot believe that he’s British). Also, despite Tim Roth playing an utter ball bag lunatic, his acting is brilliant in this, making him a truly menacing villain. Other stand outs include: Stephan JamesWendell Pierce, and Tom Wilkinson who plays President Johnson, although I could go on with the amount of acting prowess utilised here amongst every cast member.

Again, this movie does exactly what it’s set out to do and sparks something inside the human heart. It has been a long time since I found a movie as emotional and as thought-provoking as SelmaAva DuVernay is insanely talented, and she does the events depicted in this film justice. She also makes it extremely difficult to be patient; I simply cannot wait to see what else she comes up with in the future.

What this movie does extremely well is keep a viewer’s focus continually throughout; the cinematography is nothing short of immaculate, the colours and costumes are gorgeous, and this is a technical achievement of the highest honour without a doubt. 

A film as important as this deserves to watched and celebrated more. I hope that many people turn to such media to help themselves learn; not only is it a significant, necessary watch, but Selma is as perfect as a movie can be.

Selma is available to rent on Amazon for £3.49 in the UK.

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