There are biopics that are so good, you’re unable to separate the actor from the person they’re portraying. Why? It’s because the actor no longer exists; they have become their role.
Selma is undoubtedly one of those films. David Oyelowo as Martin Luther King is outstanding, showing real thought, care and dedication in his performance. You don’t have that painfully familiar feeling that this is a flimsy ‘creative interpretation’ of a historical figure. Rather, you feel like you’re there, part of the groundbreaking history unfolding in front of you. It’s an absolute travesty that Oyelowo hasn’t received an Oscar nomination, because Selma deserves all recognition possible.
The film is ambitious, sweeping through major events during the ‘60s Civil Rights Movement, scenes chillingly interspersed with text revealing how the F.B.I. tracked King’s movements. While King’s work does take centre stage, the script still allows for Selma to be as much about the other protesters, the locals, ordinary people who were affected. Carmen Ejogo also gives a remarkable portrayal of Coretta King, who campaigned for equality long after her husband’s assassination.
We are shown an uncompromising view of the campaign for equal voting rights in America, along with the violent reaction against racial equality. Some parts are almost too tough to watch because we’re still unable to distance ourselves from it. The brutality isn’t comfortably set in the past; it’s all too recent history. And that’s why films like these will always deserve recognition. It’s an obvious statement, but one worth repeating: if we stay silent, injustice will always continue. So we need to, in the words of Martin Luther King, “Stand up.”
We’ve come so far, but we still have a long way to go. Selma both reminds us of the blind hatred that we’re capable of, and that we can overcome it.