Ava DuVernay (2014)

12 Certificate


Our Score
Director Ava DuVernay's sweepingly staged, dogmatic history lesson avoids the episodic pitfalls of the biopic by eschewing Dr Martin Luther King's whole life story in favour of a single flashpoint. She focuses on the three marches led by the civil rights beacon in 1965 from Selma in Alabama to the state capital, Montgomery, demanding equal voting rights for blacks. British actor David Oyelowo gives a career-defining performance as Dr King: stirring and full-blooded in public oratory from government steps to pulpit, fallible in private, but a match for Democratic President Lyndon B Johnson (Tom Wilkinson, whose amplified turn conveys sympathy within intransigence). There is an epic feel to the massed scenes on Edmund Pettus Bridge, but most of the action takes place indoors, where DuVernay gets the most out of a huge cast in smaller parts (including producer Oprah Winfrey, rapper Common and an uncredited Martin Sheen). If Tim Roth's segregationist governor George Wallace tips into panto and the concluding montage of news photos risks over-egging the message, the overall sense of righteous, non-violent anger is palpable.


Although the Civil Rights Act of 1964 legally desegregates the South, discrimination remains rampant in certain areas, making it very difficult for blacks to register to vote. In 1965, amidst a tense atmosphere of unrest, civil rights campaigner Dr Martin Luther King Jr plans a peaceful march across Alabama from Selma to Montgomery. He is pressured to cancel it, but persists as his goal is to persuade President Lyndon B Johnson to change the law, ensuring black people can register and enjoy full democratic rights. Fact-based drama, starring David Oyelowo, Tom Wilkinson, Tim Roth and Carmen Ejogo.

Cast & Crew

Martin Luther King Jr David Oyelowo
Lyndon B Johnson Tom Wilkinson
Coretta Scott King Carmen Ejogo
Andrew Young Andre Holland
Diane Nash Tessa Thompson
Lee C White Giovanni Ribisi
Amelia Boynton Robinson Lorraine Toussaint
John Lewis Stephan James
Rev CT Vivian Corey Reynolds
Ralph Abernathy Colman Domingo
Director Ava DuVernay
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Other Information

Language: EnglishColourTheatrical distributor: PatheGuidance: Violence, swearing, racist language.Available on: DVD and Blu-rayReleased on: 6 Feb 2015