Purple Revolver’s Odeon Unseen experience

Posted on 24 January 2015
By George Heron
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Last week I received an email inviting me to buy a ticket for Odeon’s Unseen initiative. You buy a ticket at a reduced price without knowing what you are paying for. The only assurance they give is that it will be something thought-provoking and controversial.

Clues were left on the Odeon twitter handle. One of the clues was “A sister to one of TV’s leading ladies but not to Tony.” Bit of an easy clue really wasn’t it?

On the night of the Unseen, I decided to watch Shaun Meadows’ 80s rites of passage drama This Is England – which I got for my birthday – a semi-autobiographical tale about growing up in the terraces of Leeds and the influence the National Front had on the youth of the day. Little did I know that what I had just seen tied in perfectly with the unseen movie.

As you probably guessed from the clue it was Martin Luther King bio-pic Selma, another unflinchingly-brutal depiction of racial hatred. It centres on a peaceful protest instigated by Martin Luther King which aimed to bring about the abolition of hindering African-Americans from voting.

King is brought to life with complete authenticity by David Oleyowo (interstellar). He convincingly recreates the charisma and intelligence that aligned so many to his just cause. But this is no squeaky clean representation, the film is not afraid to show how devotion to his principals is at the expense of his family and marital life. There is even a hint of previous infidelities revealed in a candid conversation with his wife.

Aya DuVernay’s vivid direction deftly encapsulates the fear and grief inflicted upon the victims of the protests. You feel every crack of the truncheon on a protester’s skull to the point where they feel almost over-emphasised for maximum effect.

It’s very disturbing to watch thinking such atrocities happened in a supposedly civilised country.

The film is punctuated with pop-up text like a typewriter that shows the activity of the FBI and how comprehensively Dr. King’s whereabouts and actions where monitored. It makes it doubly astounding that the US government felt a peaceful man was such a threat to the country’s security.

All three of the main political figures involved are portrayed by British actors: Tom Wilkinson is President Johnson, who clearly has respect for Dr. King but lacks the courage to push through the necessary legislation; Oleyowo is British and Tim Roth, he of Reservoir Dogs, is chilling as the Governor of Alabama, George Wallace, a person who has utter disdain for those who don’t share his skin colour.

The supporting cast is strong too. Oprah Winfrey turns up as a defiant protester who is sick of being refused her vote. She shows great dignity despite the humiliation dished out by an electoral registrar. Great to see The Bunk from The Wire (Wendell Pierce) as Reverend Hosea Williams., one of King’s supporters and Allies.

I was expecting either American Sniper or Ex machine to be the unseen film. I’m glad I got to see this as it wasn’t on my radar at all. This is a historical document that everyone needs to see and learn from.