“Come to Selma” may have been a better title for this docu-drama. Martin Luther King is given import as a Noble Peace Prize recipient, and then portrayed as a political strategist intent on capitalizing on 70 million people sympathizing with marchers demanding a vote. This is how protest is done Saul Alinsky style: orchestrating a non-violent disturbance,using negotiating,demonstrating and resistance to gain needed change. The film is a primer for knocking down status quo unfairness.
The 1965 Voting Rights Act is the subject matter here,and Martin Luther King is the community organizer with a mission to create a better world.”Come to Selma” is his rallying cry.
Cinematographer Bradford Young does an absolutely glorious job of filming. The light and dark images play across the screen in headshot close-ups,and in pastels of muted meeting rooms, and pink-lighted, floating, slow-motion tumbles of little girls’ shoes and legs. But to be visually mesmerized is not the only reason to see this film. The acting under the direction of Ava Duvernay is masterclass worthy. David Ogelowo’s facial expressions let ussee the joys and the agonies of giving oneself over to a cause. Tom Wilkinson, as President Johnson, shows his impatience with “all that was on his plate” (Vietnam Nam included) without diminishing his good intentions and ultimate accomplishment.
Ava Duvernay in her womanly direction strengthens the touching scene between Coretta Scott King and her husband, as Cory tells Martin that she knows what he sounds like and that the crank call ( probably J.E.Hoover instigated) was not worthy of her angst. She then asks her husband if he loves her and if he ever loved the others. Carmen Ejogo is simply exquisite. Dignity is paramount and MLK never loses it. The praying on bended knee mid-bridge and the quiet conversations with John Lewis, Andrew Young and Ralph Abernathy and Malcolm X are histories videoed. The viewer goes away with missing the cadences of his speeches,but awe struck at this man slain at the young age of 39. That we all could make such a difference is what this film inspires.