It is 1965, almost a century after the abolition of slavery and one year after the famous ‘I have a dream’ speech by Martin Luther King. The black population in the southern United States has recently acquired the right to vote, but in practice little has changed because intimidation and absurd petty rules are denying millions of African Americans the opportunity to register to vote. In the town of Selma in Alabama, only 300 black Americans are registered voters while the majority of the town’s population is black. This situation prompts the civil rights movement, under the leadership of Martin Luther King, to organise a march to Selma. They are opposed in every possible way by the governor George Wallace.
The film of these historical events makes a strong impact, starting with leading actor David Oyewelo’s excellent portrayal of Martin Luther King. Oyewelo had been dreaming of playing this character for a long time, and was finally able to do so thanks in part to the support of Oprah Winfrey, who also plays a prominent role. Selma is at its best when providing detailed insight into King’s political strategies. Also impressive is the historical reconstruction of Bloody Sunday, when the protesters were halted by an overwhelming police presence. Powerful images that bear striking resemblance to the recent riots in Ferguson. In view of this, Selma poses an uncomfortable rhetorical question: have we made any real progress over the past fifty years? And why did Selma not receive the Oscar for best film, and Oyewelo the Oscar for best male actor? However the film has won the oscar for best soundtrack and 43 other awards!