Selma (USA, 2015)
Directed by Ava DuVernay
Starring David Oyelowo, Tom Wilkinson, Carmen Ejogo, Andre Holland
When I reviewed 12 Years a Slave, I spoke about how the Academy Awards have to be treated with a combination of deference and distance. For all their self-importance and groan-inducing excess, the Oscars have not become so irrelevant as to warrant us ignoring them entirely, as we do with the Golden Globes. But this year's furore over whitewashing, with individual stars boycotting the ceremony in protest at the lack of non-white nominees, has brought their potential obsolescence into sharper focus. The Academy has promised to change, but it still has a long way to go to become any more than a conversation starter for the casual filmgoer.
The King’s Speech). It’s also arguable that the decision to recognise 12 Years a Slave was in itself a demonstration of Hollywood racism. A film whose main black characters were oppressed, tortured and brutalised was applauded, while a film in which black people play an active role in changing their own destinies was ignored.
Richard Attenborough ever managed in three hours of Gandhi.
Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy was that Tomas Alfredson presented John Le Carré’s tale of intrigue and treachery with so little bombast that it became nothing more than a bunch of old men in suits talking in rooms. Selma has a similar balance of locations, and a certain amount of espionage, but it avoids getting bogged down in either demagogy or political jargon. DuVernay’s direction always keeps the personal impact at the forefront, whether it’s in the threatening phone calls or the strain on King’s marriage. Rather than belittle the wider struggle, this makes it resonate all the more. These people are not parrots for historians or actors reciting finely-tuned speeches – their passionate desire for change lifts us just as their every setback burns our hearts with pain and righteous anger.
NEXT REVIEW: Bulletproof Monk (2003)