Award Season ended - as always- with the Oscars exactly a week ago. Not all films recognized by the academy have been released here in the Netherlands, so I can still enjoy some of the season a few weeks more. For example with Selma. The Martin Luther King biopic is widely regarded one of the most snubbed films of the year and pushed the discussion of racial equality in Hollywood to the forefront once more. Read what I think after the break. Watch out for spoilers.
Selma tells the story of the marches from Selma to Montgomery in 1965, that led to the Voting Rights Act, as organized by Dr. Martin Luther King. He had just won the Nobel Peace Prize when all this happened. His non-violent approach in the Civil Rights Movement was famed and celebrated around the world, yet many African Americans in the South of the US still suffered a lot from racism.
The film immediately sets the tone, when in the very first scene, audiences get to see how a church is blown up, killing four young African American girls. Director Ava Duvernay keeps showing these kinds of brutality all through the film in a very powerful way. To me it is always unimagineable that many people feel so superior to others, but especially because of something like the colour of one's skin. I love how this film is not a biopic about one man, as much as it is a film about a community and their fight as a whole.
The acting in Selma is great. Most notably David Oyelowo, who plays the part of Martin Luther King. For I was embarrassingly unaware of what Martin Luther King looked like and how he sounded, I just had to watch a clip to put the performance in perspective. I think that Oyelowo caught the spirit of Luther King in a great way. Not imitating him, but bringing his memory back to life.
Carmen Ejogo, as Martin's wife Coretta, was impressive in her small role. She made the film feel more personal and real, by emphasizing King's personal life and personal problems and how the family had to live in fear, because of the great work they were all doing. Oprah's even smaller part as Annie Lee Cooper is another part that brought you closer to the cause. Seeing how Annie got rejected the right to vote in a terribly humiliating way, underlines the necessity of that particular march to Montgomery.
So how do I feel about how the Academy did or didn't snub Selma in some of the biggest categories? I think that Selma was quite deserving of Oscar attention. It definitely deserved the Best Picture and Original song nominations and win. David Oyelowo would have made a fine best actor nominee, although I personally felt that he wasn't quite as good as both Eddie Redmayne and Michael Keaton (I have yet to see Bradley Cooper and Steve Carell's performances). Ava Duvernay on the other hand, is the one who is truly snubbed here. Her directing was simply great and worthy of at least a nomination.
As a whole I think this film was very good, but it somehow didn't touch me as much as some other big racial-inequality-films of the past few years did. Both The Help and Twelve Years a Slave simply connected to me more ánd happened to get more Academy love as well. I have to admit though that I was very tired when I watched the movie, so that might have something to do with how it impacted me. In the end I think the most important thing is that these films are made in the first place. I am happy that Selma was made.