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‘Selma’ masters relevancy through themes and characters

By Annabel Brooks, For The Miami Student

The Academy Award-nominated film "Selma" is a beautiful tribute to Martin Luther King Jr. and his efforts to establish equality and justice for all Americans. "Selma" is his story and the story of so many others who risked their lives in the fight for equality.

Director Ava Duvernay brings the civil rights movement up to present day, at a time when we need to be reminded of King's brave and unwavering position on equality. The film brings together white and black to illustrate an important point that isn't reiterated enough: everyone must fight for equality.

Supported largely by the brilliant and graceful performance by British actor David Oyelowo, who portrays King, the film moves flawlessly. "Selma" illustrates King and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC)'s battle against the southern resistance. Their experiences in Selma play out beautifully and emotionally on the screen.

Despite roadblocks by Alabama governor George Wallace and the wavering support of President Lyndon B. Johnson, King and other members of the SCLC were able to successfully broadcast the march which led inevitably to the official abolishment of voting restrictions in the south.

To make the Selma campaign a success, King had to risk everything - his family, his reputation and his life - in order to come out victorious over that hate. In this way, the audience is presented with a new, more complete image of King, a prestigious man that isn't without human faults.

The film is pretty straightforward in mentioning King's adultery. Duvernay manages to weave that into his full character so we, as the audience, are able to understand his full person. None of that would have been possible without Oyelowo and his remarkable interpretation of King.

Oyelowo wasn't the only standout performance in the film. Carmen Ejogo's Coretta King is emotional, brave and stunning. Even Oprah Winfrey, a producer of the film, is strong, yet modest as the hospice nurse and Selma participant Annie Lee Cooper. Each character in the film plays an important role in creating the world of "Selma."

Perhaps the most moving moment in the film comes when actors Cager Lee and Keith Stanfield, a father-son duo, run from the police in the midnight march scene only to end up at the will of the brutal Selma police. The audience truly feels their pain.

The cinematography of "Selma" is as brilliant as its acting performances. Under the direction of DuVernay and through cinematographer Bradford Young's masterful hand, the camera creates a holistic world. The final scene is particularly moving, with the juxtaposition of the Selma march participants and the racist protesters all responding to King's speech at the Montgomery state building. It is in that shot we finally feel like love has outweighed hate and the feeling of potential and hope is overwhelmingly there.

"Selma" is truly a masterful film, and a relevant one at that. Its themes and characters are ones that defy time and place. It is a beautiful tribute and a powerful reminder to us all that the fight for equality has come so far, but is not yet won.

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