SELMA (2014)


Firstly, biopics never fully satisfy, they are overly dramatized, obviously, and then comes the artistic license; this is not what turns me off. There will ALWAYS be someone who takes umbrage because “‘insert name here’ “didn’t wear that tie, etc, etc.” I am being flippant but you get the drift. For me, I find that they rarely leave a lasting impression. Malcolm X was an exception. For me.

I went into this with many reservations. Will it be an emotional blackmailing piece because of the subject matter? Will David Oyelowo be any good? I am happy to say that I was wrong, on all counts. Oyelowo is brilliant and deserved a nomination, as should director Ava DuVernay. The snub seems to be a political one. 12 Years a Slave was lauded last year and the voters either didn’t see Selma or decided to go the Cooper route. I have yet to see The Imitation Game or The Theory of Everything but my instinct tells me that although the performances will be special, the films will be average. My money is on Birdman for Best Film.

It’s great that we are getting more female directors gaining more commercial and critical success and I welcome it. DuVernay treats the subject matter with depth, sensitivity and respect and it comes through. This is an important film; it is the first feature film to focus on Martin Luther King Jr, which is crazy that it took so long to do so.

Set in 1965 and centring around the Selma to Montgomery civil rights voting march and written by Ava DuVernay and Paul Webb, this film succeeds on many levels. The cast are all brilliant, bringing their ‘A’ games to the table for such a prescient piece of American history. British actress, Carmen Ejogo (The Purge: Anarchy) plays Coretta King (she previously played her in Boycott in 2001) and delivers a performance of subtlety and skill. Tim Roth is Governor George Wallace, steeped in the racist ways of Alabama of the time and manages to make him three dimensional, veering away from pantomimicry. Wendell Pearce (The Wire, Treme) is Rev. Hosea Williams and, as usual is a joy to watch. Stephen James plays John Lewis, the chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), who was a key member in the endeavour to end racial discrimination and segregation. Common plays James Bevel. Tom Wilkinson is brilliant as Lyndon B Johnson, eschewing caricature for a performance with layers. Nigel Thatch plays Malcom X in a fantastic scene with Coretta King. Oprah Winfrey imbues her Annie Lee Cooper with dignity and delivers a performance filled with respect and admiration for this incredible woman who not many people know about. That’s one of the joys of this film, the fact that a lot of the key members are featured and it shines a light on these brave, heroes of recent American history. Special mention goes to Dylan Baker who portrays J Edgar Hoover with a coldness and menace in the one scene he appears in.

The cinematography is inspired by Bradford Young who did a wonderful job on the low budget, Pariah. Jason Moran is on soundtrack duties and creates a perfect accompaniment to the visuals. For a film that I had expected to disappoint, I was wonderfully surprised.

One to watch.






Stones Throw Records has become a home to a plethora of musical artists who nobody else would sign.

The reason, Chris Manak, aka the celebrated music producer, Peanut Butter Wolf.
Clearly Wolf is a man of many talents and tastes and here we get to see the journey of his record label from inception to near enough now.
Being an independent label has its challenges art is his goal whether or not the music is commercially viable. There was a time when Stones Throw was a mecca for many artists who would otherwise find it difficult to get a deal.

Started in 1996 as a way to put out the kind of music he likes as opposed to the music he thinks people will like and he has remained true to this to date.
It has been seen as a hip-hop label but was always more than that.
One of the main reasons was Madlib, the incredible producer behind the brilliant Madlib/ MF Doom collaboration Madvillainy, that is now seen as one of the greatest hip hop albums amongst the cognoscenti. Originally signed to Stones Throw as part of the hip hop outfit, Lootpac, Madlib went on to become one of the greatest hip hop producers living today. His work with the late, great J Dilla caused a great deal of excitement within the hip-hop community and music industry in general.

Featuring the likes of Common, Tyler the Creator, Kanye West, Flying Lotus, Madlib, Daniel Dumille (MF Doom) Talib Kweli and Snoop this documentary is a must for all lovers of music showing that it can be done outside of the usual channels, independently and at times, successfully.