Wednesday, February 11, 2015

SELMA - 2 nominations

Best Picture - Christian Colson, Oprah Winfrey, Dede Gardner, Jeremy Kleiner
Best Song - "Glory"  Music and Lyric by John Stephens and Lonnie Lynn

Selma is the story of the civil rights movement and Martin Luther King's vision to march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama to protest the laws keeping African Americans from voting.  Inherent in that struggle is the demand for equal rights across the board - working for the demise of segregation altogether.  The key challenge was not only to have institutionalized racism overturned, but also to ensure that the laws that had already passed protecting African American citizens were actively enforced.  It may have been legal for African Americans to vote, but that doesn't mean that the person working in city government was actually allowing people to register.

It's a very powerful, very moving film, with phenomenal performances, especially by David Oyelowo who embodied the spirit of MLK.  The best part of the film is that although we do follow Martin Luther King and his actions to make change, it equally lauds the people of Selma who endured humiliations, beatings, and other forms of degradation.  The victories do not rest solely on the charismatic leader, they sit in the hands of the people who made these tremendous sacrifices every day, in every possible way.  The choice to make MLK a very real person and show all sides of him (including that he was cheating on his wife), was a brave one. Ava DuVernay, as the Director of the film, did an outstanding job of personalizing the struggle and showing the realities of that time - not everyone believed that the chosen way was the correct way.  In some ways, MLK was seen in the film as a carpet bagger, picking the best towns to drop in on and do his work, which was not appreciated by everyone already working in that town.  I must admit that of all of the categories in which Selma was overlooked, Ava DuVernay not being nominated for Best Director is the most upsetting to me.  She did a brilliant job with this film.

The bottom line of what makes this film so well done is how real the portrayals are.  Now, this is a film so it would be foolish to assume that everything portrayed is accurate to the actual history of struggle.  There are those who are furious that President Johnson is portrayed as working against MLK, but we have to remember that this is a film in need of conflict.  I suspect the truth is somewhere in the middle.  There are those who are unhappy that other communities who were active and supportive of the efforts were not highlighted - I do not agree with those voices.  This film is one lens of the story, and what I sincerely hope is that people are inspired by the film to learn the true history of the struggle.  That would be a real victory.

Finally, I have to mention the song that is nominated for an Oscar, "Glory."  I believe this song to be absolutely the most powerful of the category.  John Legend and Common knocked it out of the park, and I'm sharing a video here that includes the lyrics so you can really be moved by its power.

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