10DoO #8 – Selma (2014)

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by Jaime Grijalba.

I feel that I’m not the most precise person to speak about this movie, as I think that it needs the weight of either someone who has known this history for long enough, or lived in USA, or whatever, and while I can relish in the period goodness of other films, there’s something in this movie that keeps me at arm’s length towards its subject matter, as if the movie was constantly telling me that I wasn’t worthy of experiencing or pointing out anything about it that I didn’t like, or as if it was a movie that was beyond any comprehension that I, as a Chilean man that can wrestle with the english language, could ever fathom. What’s about this movie that keeps me from either loving it completely or dismissing it entirely, putting me just in a limbo of existential admiration towards the craft and certain elements of hard emotions that the film manages to conjure (outrage, sadness, joy, etc.) but at a certain bafflement over the kind of praise that this movie gets out of some circles, as it doesn’t achieve any kind of major emotional climax beyond the sequences of the march and the death of certain characters. The movie is good, don’t get me wrong, but it’s not the masterpiece that some have said it to be, at least under my standards… and you know that my standards are shit.

Let’s talk a bit about Ava DuVernay’s direction, one that deserved an Oscar nomination according to many people. While I do think that she would deserve a nomination more than Morten Tyldum for ‘The Imitation Game’ (2014), I also think that she does fall into some decisions that I don’t feel were too correct, like the way in which she frames the Richard Oyelowo as Martin Luther King as a Christ-like figure, something that bothered me, because while many people have issues with certain biopics and the way that it ‘sanctifies’ their subjects, I think we should be fair and actually tell that it applies to every biopic and every character, regardless of their position. The tact and the editing of the film itself has been talked about by Mike D’Angelo at certain length in his Letterboxd capsule, but beyond that, there’s just a seemingly ‘standard’ quality that has been an issue of criticism for other films, that when applied here, aren’t taken account for. I don’t want to call this movie privileged, but this film seems to be somewhat shielded from any honest and even harsh criticism, in fear that one might be called out as racist or even worse.

There’s not much else from me, I must confess that this movie moved me in certain moments. The protests were way too similar to the student protests that we had in Chile when I was a student, the running, how we had to hide, how sometimes we were sniffed out and pulled out and put to jail. It hurt to see people being chased, people hurt, and maybe the best scenes of this movie lie there, and it’s in that greatness, the greatness of being persecuted, of knowing that you’re doing something not only for you, but for those who come after you. This is the spirit of ‘Selma’, the spirit of those who fought, side by side, and they did it not because they wanted to be in a better world, but because they wanted to leave a better world for their children. Amazing film of ideas and revolution, with weak visuals. But still, mighty powerful stuff.

8/10

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