‘Selma’ gains success as dramatic biopic, despite criticisms

Courtesy of Paramount Pictures

Courtesy of Paramount Pictures

Bruce Walton

“Selma,” the historically dramatic film of the struggles of Martin Luther King Jr. and the civil rights movement of the 1960s, has been receiving almost constant attention since its national release date Friday Jan. 9, only 10 days before Martin Luther King Jr. Day.           

Clint O’Connor, film critic for the Cleveland Plain Dealer, reviewed the film and commended the film as one of his top three picks for best films, below “Birdman” and “Grand Budapest Hotel.”

“It’s just a deeply felt drama, there’s a lot going on,” O’Connor said. “Obviously it’s based on this true story, this historic event. I thought one of the smartest things Ava (DuVernay) did was, she didn’t try and tell the entire story of the civil rights movement. I think, I’ve been telling people this is not a preachy biopic, this is not a heavy-handed history lesson, it’s just a terrific film and obviously this story is the main component of it.”

Since its release, many came forward criticizing the film’s depiction of former President Lyndon B. Johnson as unsympathetic to King’s cause in Selma. Joseph A. Califano Jr., Johnson’s top assistant for domestic affairs from 1965 to 1969, wrote an op-ed in the Washington Post, claiming the president was much more involved in helping King’s cause.

“Lyndon Johnson and Martin Luther King Jr. were partners in this effort,” Califano said. “Johnson was enthusiastic about voting rights and the president urged King to find a place like Selma and lead a major demonstration.”


However, film director DuVernay responded to criticisms over Twitter, saying, “Bottom line is folks should interrogate history. Don’t take my word for it or LBJ rep’s word for it. Let it come alive for yourself.”

“Selma,” regardless of debate, currently grossed more than an estimated $29 million as of Jan. 19 according to boxofficemjojo.com, and has received several nominations for Academy Awards.  DuVernay also became the first black woman nominated for a Golden Globe for Best Director, according to the Hollywood Reporter.

O’Connor said he urges people of all ages, young and old to see the film, if not for the historical element, but the fact that it is a thrilling dramatic telling.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Reaction from KentWired.com on Vimeo.

Contact Bruce Walton at [email protected].