Saturday 22 October 2016

Luther King bio's getting my vote


I'm a bit of a fan of the African-American story, from 12 Years a Slave to The Butler and Mississippi Burning. And now we can add Selma to that great list.

While the achievements of Martin Luther King Jr's campaign for civil rights are now the stuff of legend, here the man - warts and all - is examined.

The picture's not always flattering, but it's all the better for that as it focuses on the fight for voting rights for black men and women in the town of Selma, Alabama.

Some of the incidents are truly shocking, including a murder by a police officer, a civil rights activist being beaten to death and a deadly, and unexpected, explosion at the opening of the movie.

The events of 1964 are brought into sharp focus as King (David Oyelowo) chooses Selma as the town in which to make a stand for fair voting for all, at a time when local government in the South was putting every obstacle in the way of black voters.

But King is up against powerful forces: US president Lyndon B Johnson (Tom Wilkinson) wants to put the issue on the back burner.

FBI chief J Edgar Hoover wants to exploit rumours of an affair by King to keep the activist down, while even local African-American activists are tired of King's non-violent approach.

Oprah Winfrey is excellent as the dignified Annie Lee Cooper, who's knocked back every time she tries to cast her vote, while Wilkinson has Johnson down to a T. A superb, if disturbing, movie.

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