Selma Review

Selma is a 2014 bio-drama written by Paul Webb and directed Ava DuVernay. The film won the 2015 Academy Award for best original song "Glory" and was nominated for Best Picture the same year.


The film tells the story of the build up to Dr. Martin Luther King's march on Selma, Alabama for black America's right to vote. It shows the careful calculations King and his comrades considered to make their protest a success, the opposition they faced and the personal drama and stress that King felt during the time.

The story itself is thoroughly engrossing, though in a different way than other movies. With the benefit of hindsight, we know that Dr. King will get his way and be able to make his march. The tension and intrigue, therefore, come from all the unknown dramas and set backs that they had to go through to get there.

The screenplay is amazing in that they made the character in this movie sound like Martin Luther King Jr. Even if he never said these words you could imagine he might've said him.


The cinematography is very shaky all throughout the movie. This can be both a good and bad thing depending on what scene they're filming. When they have scenes of police brutality or extreme tension, it adds to the experience because we feel the intensity and chaos of that scene. Other times, however, it's sorely unnecessary. I remember one scene where King was giving a speech at a funeral and the camera wouldn't stop moving. He was just standing there giving a sermon and the camera kept tilting from side to side and even moving up and down. I don't know why the director chose to do this, but it was really detracting.

The set and costume design are pretty standard movie depiction of the 1960's. There're a lot of suits for the men and flowery dresses for the women and the houses have a lot of brown, but also contrasting colors like pink and green. It's not bad, it just looks like every other depiction of the 60's I've seen in a lot of other movies.

The lighting is also standard depiction of the 60's, in that everything is lit to look old. Whenever it's light out, it's a muted gray and whenever it's dark there's always an orange light lighting up the actors. Even though I sometimes had trouble seeing the actors in dark spaces, they still did an ok job.

The sound editing, for the most part, is fine. However, there were one or two scenes where I couldn't tell what the actors were saying. Their voices sounded very muffled and it was hard to make out words. Maybe you could say it's because of the accents they were using, but I had no trouble hearing them for the rest of the film, so I'm not sure about that.

The musical score is nothing to speak of, but the songs they picked to play in the film are great. A lot of it is old black gospel music and I personally love that kind of stuff. They always seem to pick a song that fits the tone they're going for: calming, chaotic, tragic etc.

The one aspect of the film that holds it all together is David Oyelowo's performance as Martin Luther King. He accurately portrays how you'd think King would act and speak: in control of the room, always knows what to say to a crowd and always respectful and kind to others. Yet, he also captures the side of King that you wouldn't have thought he had: constantly under stress, some times uncertain of what he's doing and at times angrily indignant. I'm especially impressed that Oyelowo was able to nail the voice, because he sounds exactly like Martin Luther King Jr. He definitely should've gotten nominated for something

Summary: This is an emotionally powerful film that I honestly didn't think was going to be as good as it was. It tells the story of one of the great American icons with respect and humanity and comes highly recommended.



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