- Coleg Sir Gar
- Review Date
- 19 January, 2016
“I feel a lifetime commitment to my community, to capturing the nuance of who we are. I’m not interested in broad strokes. Just in our day-to-day existence, society puts a lot of broad strokes on us anyway: This is who black people are. It’s very easy to marginalize us if you generalize us. But if we can dig deep into the macro level, it gives us a greater depth of humanity. That’s where our paths connect.” - Cinematographer Bradford Young (Selma)
'Selma' (released on February 6th, 2015) paints a rather distressing picture of the trials faced by Martin Luther King and his followers in the months when they were trying to ensure that all black American citizens were able to vote without obstruction from the rest of the American population. They did this by going on a peaceful march from Selma, a small town in Alabama, to Montgomery; an act that eventually persuaded then President, Lyndon B. Johnson, to pass the 1965 Voting Rights act.
David Oyelowo gives possibly one of the most thought-provoking performances of his career as the film's protagonist, Martin Luther King, and his complex portrayal of one of the most inspiring people to have ever lived is undoubtedly deserving of our applause. Through Oyelowo, we witness not the god-like, legendary figure that King has become, but rather an ordinary individual, flawed in his own way like everyone else, and not always certain of himself, but one who strove for equality and who would do anything for justice. Co-starring alongside Oyelowo are Tom Wilkinson, Carmen Ejogo and Oprah Winfrey - all of whom depict their respective characters with the utmost dignity and respect. Directing the film was maverick director Ava DuVerney, and the poignant and perceptive screenplay was written by Paul Webb. This gripping film is predominantly dedicated to the movement that King led, and not solely King himself, and it is for this reason that we begin to understand the enormity of everything that they did. However, the script was criticised for having some historical inaccuracies - for instance, the relationship between President Johnson and King. Johnson actually cared deeply about Civil Rights, but was drowning under his own responsibilities so he deemed that the voting problem would do better to wait.
The cinematography of this film is a work of pure genius. For a cinematographer, lighting a black actor can be a challenge because darker skin tones absorb more light. To overcome this, talented cinematographer Bradford Young subtly bounced the lighting instead of just direct-lighting the actors, so as to enrich their skin tones. A lot of practical lights were used throughout this film to illuminate the subjects, thus creating a very warm orangey atmosphere. The result was an almost ethereal quality, especially when backlit. The overall lighting of the film however, had a Kodachrome look. This was inspired by Robert F. Kennedy’s funeral train footage, and the result of this was fairly subdued, with bursts of colour. One particular scene that stood out for me regarding the cinematography was when the marchers were attacked at night. The lighting here was fairly simple; white flickering torchlights that sharpened the shadows and threw the actors into silhouette, creating a mass effect. This was particularly poignant due to the slaughter and attack on many nameless people. The screenplay was phenomenal, and captured the essence of both Martin Luther King and President Johnson perfectly. The majority of the film’s music score consisted of Jazz and gospel songs that highlighted the sense of black culture and pride that the film conveyed.
The word ‘enjoyment’ is not necessarily a word that I would use to describe my own experience when watching this drama; however, that is not to say that I didn’t ‘enjoy’ it. It is difficult to put into words the cascade of emotions one feels when viewing work like this - on the one hand, it fills you with despair when witnessing tragedy such as this, and you cannot help but be ashamed of humanity. But then again, the other hand holds a very different story. One of hope, peace, and justice, objectives that still resonate with us today. ‘Selma’ is an astonishing film, and definitely one to watch, as it is a stunning tribute to King and his movement.