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Summer 1965: During the fight for voter rights in practice and not just on paper, Martin Luther King and his campaigners organize peaceful protests in Selma. The (white) police force respond with brutal force.


Not long ago he served tea as “the Butler” in the White House, and now he is visiting the American President in his official residence as Martin Luther King: in SELMA, British actor David Oyelowo takes on another historical role. This isn’t a coincidence but indeed part of a wave of recent films that focus on African American history –a history that is shaped by violence and oppression throughout the decades with changing means, and has been challenged with varying degrees of success. SELMA, Ava DuVernay’s gripping drama set in 1965, chronicles a famous episode in the American civil rights movement. Frustrated by the lack of genuine progress, Martin Luther King and his campaigners organize peaceful protests to secure the right of African Americans to register and vote freely. But the non-violent protests and marches were met with brutal police (white) violence. Numerous black marchers, and some white supporters, were injured and some killed. And it was this violence that brought the issue to the attention of the larger American public and ultimately meant success. A high price had to be paid – a fact that SELMA doesn’t try to hide. Not least because a nuanced depiction of history adds or retracts to the quality of a film that tries to avoid the many snares of a politically engaged historical drama: Even as events in the film are checked off and we are distracted by the many stars in supporting roles, one can hardly evade the rousing power of Martin Luther King’s words.

Michael Meyns

Translation: Carla MacDougall



  • OV Original version
  • OmU Original with German subtitles
  • OmeU Original with English subtitles

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