Director: Ava DuVernay
Starring: David Oyelowo
Country: United States/United Kingdom
Taken together, Ava DuVernay's Selma and 13th act as a compelling thesis on the power of words and images. The one (13th) making the case for the power of words, specifically regarding how they can be used as a tool to safeguard power in the hands of those who have always had it, the other making the case for the power of images to do the work that words simply cannot, specifically to make real and urgent issues that feel intangible to those not personally suffering their effects. Martin Luther King Jr. was a great speaker, but it took the images of the violence on the Edmund Pettus Bridge being broadcast across the United States and to the rest of the world to finally galvanize the sympathetic but complacent into seeing that the voting rights movement was not a "black issue," but a human issue. The impact of images is at the heart of the story that the film is telling, but it's also a key to the film's success. Viewing the story of the Selma to Montgomery marches not from the lofty heights of power and the perspective of politicians, but from the ground and the perspective of those suffering the indignities and pain of racism, DuVernay creates powerful, bracing visuals that allow Selma to sidestep the trap that many historical/biographical films tend to fall into. This is not a reverent but dryly academic examination of "An Important Thing That Happened," but a work of passion and great impact.