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Selma

Directed by Ava DuVernay

UK, 2014

Cornerhouse, 8 February 2015

After receiving the Nobel peace prize in 1964, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. returned to the South, to the city of Selma, to fight for the right to vote for the black people there.

Selma is the story of that brutal and bloody struggle, and of what it cost King and his followers.  He, King, is portrayed as a man of courage and deep feeling yet also as a cool and clear-thinking political strategist.  When King says that the sheriff of Selma will make mistakes, you know what he means: the protests will result in black people being injured, perhaps killed, on camera, for all the world to see.  His methods worked.

David Oyelowo delivers a powerful central performance, and it’s a powerful film overall.  I do wonder, mind, whether we’ll ever see a mainstream film about Bayard Rustin, and whether he’ll ever come to be as celebrated and revered by the African-American community as King.  Certainly, he was as significant a figure in the civil rights movement.  But he was also gay.

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