|David Oyelowo as Martin Luther King Jr in "Selma"|
I got to see "Selma" on Thursday afternoon. Directed by Ava DuVernay and starring David Oyelowo as Martin Luther King, it focuses on the city of Selma in Alabama during the summer of 1965. A civil rights march is planned from Selma to the state capital - Montgomery. It's all about pressurising the authorities to roll back layers of institutionalised southern racism and allow disenfranchised black people the right to vote.
The role of President Lyndon B. Johnson is played magnificently by Yorkshire-born actor Tom Wilkinson and of course the lead actor Oyelowo is also English. This slightly puzzling English factor was reminiscent of "Twelve Years a Slave".
I thought that "Selma" was a brilliant film and half a dozen times as I gazed at the screen in the cinema darkness, tears rolled down my cheeks. I was weeping about the wrongness of racism and the cruelty that so often accompanies it and because I was ashamed that my species - the human race can at times be so inhuman. If a film grabs you like that it's saying something.
David Oyewolo was very convincing as Dr King - not only when he delivered his rousing political sermons but also as he wrestled with the demons of his private life and the likelihood that one day the American establishment would take its ultimate revenge. Death never seemed far away. It is outrageous that Oyewolo is not nominated for best actor at tomorrow's Oscars when Bradley Cooper has got the nod for his part in the truly awful and gratuitous "American Sniper".
There's a scene early in "Selma" when four black girls in a Montgomery baptist church are chattering about hairstyles as they descend the stairs by a beautiful stained glass window. There's an almighty blast which fills the cinema and darkens the screen. When the dust clears you see the mangled bodies of these girls in the debris. This outrage happened on September 15th 1963 but the legal ramifications were still very apparent as planning began for the 1965 Montgomery march
(As an aside and as I said before some time ago in this blog, our daughter Frances helped to clean up the broken glass from that self-same stained glass window when she worked at The Civil Rights Centre in Birmingham, Alabama back in 2011. She also visited Selma soon after arriving in Alabama as part of her induction programme)
"Selma " is an important film that should from now on be required viewing in all American high schools for the shadow of racism still lingers and Martin Luther King Jr's dream has not yet been realised. It was fifty miles from Selma to Montgomery but it's much further to the promised land.