SELMA (2014) C widescreen 128m dir: Ava DuVernay
w/David Oyelowo, Carmen Ejogo, Tim Roth, Lorraine Toussaint, Jim France, Trinity Simone, Mikeria Howard, Jordan Rice, Ebony Billups, Nadej K. Bailey, Elijah Oliver, Oprah Winfrey, Clay Chappell, Tom Wilkinson, Giovanni Ribisi, Haviland Stillwell, André Holland, Ruben Santiago-Hudson, Colman Domingo, Omar J. Dorsey, Tessa Thompson, Common, David M. Morizot, David Dwyer, E. Roger Mitchell, Dylan Baker, Ledisi Young, Kent Faulcon, Stormy Merriwether, Niecy Nash, Corey Reynolds, Wendell Pierce, John Lavelle, Stephan James, Trai Byers, LaKeith Stanfield, Henry G. Sanders, Charity Jordan, Stan Houston, Greg Maness, Nigel Thatch, Stephen Root, Michael Papajohn, Brian Kurlander, Jeremy Strong, Elizabeth Diane Wells, Tara Ochs, David Silverman, Charles Saunders, Dexter Tillis, Cuba Gooding Jr., Alessandro Nivola, Michael Shikany, Brandon O'Dell, Dane Davenport, Brandon Carroll, Mark Cabus, Christine Horn, Dan Triandiflou, Jody Thompson, Kenny Cooper, Montrel Miller, Charles Black, Zipporah Carter, Willean Lacy, Dawn Young-McDaniel, Harry Belafonte, Tony Bennett, Sammy Davis Jr.
Ave DuVernay's dramatic recreation of Martin Luther King Jr.'s 1965 historic march from Selma, Alabama, to Montgomery, Alabama, on a quest for the basic human right to vote.
Below are some notes collected for a lecture on the film in 2014:
Martin Luther King Jr.:
MLK Jr.: not just great orator: also:
terrific organizer of events & people:
mobilizing & organizing protesters
dealing with struggles within movement
balancing friends & enemies
SELMA: gives us 3-D picture of him
MLK Jr.: purposely chose Selma because of its volatility:
knew people would be hurt: but:
images of this violence vs. blacks:
would force President L.B. Johnson's hand
using media to evoke response of people
David Oyelowo: MLK Jr.:
classically trained stage actor:
graduated from London Academy of Music & Dramatic Art:
1998: received "scholarship for Excellence":
from Nicholas Hytner
LEE DANIELS' THE BUTLER
A MOST VIOLENT YEAR
upcoming: NINA: bio-pic: musician Nina Simone:
relationship between Simone: Zoe Saldana
& her manager
what re: Oyelowo's performance as MLK Jr.?
"He's complex & alive here, & incarnated wonderfully by
Oyelowo, who gives a resolutely unflashy performance:
serene but capable of fear, doubt & even anger"
"As King, Oyelowo is the movie's grave but radiant center"
British actors: play 3 key roles:
LBJ: Tom Wilkinson
George Wallace: Tim Roth
Carmen: Ejogo: Coretta Scott King:
their marriage: strained by threat of violence:
also: by MLK Jr.'s serial infidelities
"balancing his sacred mission with his sexual appetites"
topic: not examined fully: but not shied away from
do MLK Jr. & Coretta Scott King become real people in film?
does SELMA show us MLK Jr. as human being? not as myth?
is Tom Wilkinson's portrayal of LBJ accurate?
does SELMA keep us in suspense: even tho we know what happened?
way different events pictured in film are woven together:
opening: MLK Jr.: accepting Nobel Peace Prize:
cuts to: bombing of Birmingham church:
murder of 4 little girls
3rd scene: tracks Annie Lee Cooper:
as she tries to register to vote
broader scope of Civil Rights Movement shown: also:
starting movie this way:
moral stakes of political fight laid out
do protest scenes in SELMA convey reality of events:
1 critic: like scenes from war movie
DuVernay's camera: often follows chars as they march
what picture of US government does film give us?
"nefarious": also woven into film
Voting Rights Act:
1965: crucial legislation:
prohibited racial discrimination in voting:
also: right to sit on juries:
juries: populated by whites: convicting blacks
VRA: remained untouched for almost 50 years:
June 2013: Supreme Court decision: controversial:
effectively negated act
where does this leave blacks today?
Civil Rights Era: ongoing: not over
SELMA's relevance to 21st century:
SELMA: 1st feature film re: MLK Jr.:
its timing: accidental: but fortuitous:
contemporary US race relations:
widespread recent protests re:
rash of white cops killing unarmed black men:
cops: not indicted:
Ferguson, MO: Michael Brown:
happened right after shooting finished
Staten Island, NY
Cleveland, OH: cops killed 12-year-old black boy
SELMA: re: process & psychology of civil rights activism:
seems even more urgently needed today:
protests occurring in major cities
obvious: racism we see in SELMA: by whites:
including FBI surveillance:
still there: for many people: barely under surface
some racism: still on surface:
attempts to delegitimize Obama's presidency
MLK Jr.: achieved much: but much more left to do:
what would MLK Jr. do today?
is there black leader now?
would what worked in Selma work today?
we're desensitized to violence
does film take his portrayal beyond myth?
would George Wallace be rooting for this year's U of Alabama
football squad dominated by black players?
Ava DuVernay: director: 42 years old:
writer, producer, director, producer of independent films
DuVernay: previously: for 14 years: film marketer & publicist
directed 2 feature films before SELMA:
2010: I WILL FOLLOW
2012: MIDDLE OF NOWHERE
Oyelowo: stars in MIDDLE OF NOWHERE:
used his influence to get her to direct SELMA
DuVernay: says she's always been:
"more of a Black Panthers/Malcolm X kind of girl"
SELMA: composed with "clean, classical eye":
scenes of crowd violence: shot with "unflinching eye"
3 showdowns on bridge: charged with energy:
joins together: mythical elements
techniques of filmmaking
powerful sense of reality
writer: Paul Webb:
Webb: playwright: productions in England & Scotland:
SELMA: his 1st screenplay
MLK Jr.'s speeches: not allowed to be used in film:
DuVernay: worked on script to capture:
rhythm of speeches: without breaking law
DP: Bradford Young:
Young: skilled at lighting black actors' faces:
scenes between MLK Jr. & wife Coretta Scott King
Annie Lee Cooper: Oprah Winfrey:
Winfrey: producer of film:
Cooper: shown in opening: trying to register to vote:
later: became activist: punched sheriff in face
Cooper: "played with surprising naturalism by Oprah Winfrey,
one of the country’s richest and most powerful people"
Amelia Boynton: Lorraine Toussaint:
Boynton: helped James Bevel organize march to Montgomery:
"Bloody Sunday": beaten unconscious
photo of her lying unconscious on bridge:
stoked outrage around world
John Lewis: Stephan James:
Lewis: SNCC activist & leader: became Georgia congressman:
now in office for 28 years:
known as "the conscience of Congress"
Diane Nash: Tessa Thompson:
Nash: leader & strategist: SNCC:
galvanized into action:
by bombing of church: 4 little girls killed
Andrew Young: Andre Holland:
Young: SCLC ally of MLK Jr.:
US Ambassador to UN
55th mayor of Atlanta, GA
representative from Georgia
Eisenstein & Pudovkin: Soviet masters: silent era:
BATTLESHIP POTEMKIN / END OF ST. PETERSBURG:
SELMA: "Bloody Sunday" march:
evokes crowd scenes from Soviet classics
Spike Lee: DO THE RIGHT THING:
Smiley: selling photo of Malcolm X & MLK Jr.
ends with quotes on violence:
MLK Jr.: violence: never acceptable
Malcolm X: violence is intelligence
MALCOLM X: MLK Jr.: char in film
LINCOLN: concentrates on brief period in Lincoln's life:
is this tactic better than tackling entire span of life?
also like SELMA:
interweaves politics, showmanship & media manipulation:
to cause real change to happen