Film ‘Selma’ at Soraya a stark reminder
Recreating the historic 1965 famous march across Alabama’s Edmund Pettus Bridge in the film Selma. Courtesy, Paramount Pictures. Selma with live score at Soraya Performance Arts Center serves up stirring experience, wake-up and rallying call DENISE MIMS
Recreating the historic 1965 famous march across Alabama’s Edmund Pettus Bridge in the film Selma. Courtesy, Paramount Pictures.
Selma with live score at Soraya Performance Arts Center serves up stirring experience, wake-up and rallying call
DENISE MIMS THOMAS, Contributing Writer
Revisiting the epic film “Selma” with a live score conducted by Che Che Alara of the New West Orchestra, alongside jazz pianist and composer Jason Moran, Feb 1, at the Soraya Performance Arts Center at California State University, Northridge; who would have thought in 2020, African Americans would be faced with voter rights being threatened and eroded?
Who would have thought that instead of being a painfully strong memory of days gone by, that Selma would serve as a wake-up call for some and a rallying call to many?
African Americans have tred a long way, but this film reminds us how tenuous and beautiful is the road we travel.
The significance of a jazz-minded musician being selected to represent this era reminds us that the genre of jazz, which is so uniquely American, should obviously be the one chosen to underscore these events, and therefore we no longer feel as though we are strangers here when the somber, redolent themes which replicate the familiar languidness of the south remind us that the fight for freedom is as American as apple pie.
Guests were also graced by a surprise visit from acclaimed and Oscar-nominated director Ava DuVernay whose words of encouragement inspired the audience to reflect on the timeliness of this film and the significance of its score.
The score is monumental, but one cannot help but notice how sparsely the music is used throughout the film and yet instead of exerting a jarring effect on the audience – which would match the events we witnessed – created a sense of calm.
In an interview by Phil Gallo in 2011, Moran describes how he achieved this effect,
“Music gets in the way of most films. I was trying to be conscious of how we wanted our audience to exit the theater – angry, settled or unsettled – but to give them enough hope so they leave positive.”
And indeed we do.
The music is a gentle bluesy backdrop to harrowing events and even though we are there with a richly talented symphony orchestra, I sometimes had to look down from the screen to see them performing, as the music seamlessly enhanced the film, that I was blissfully unaware of its presence.
The magnificence of the venue – the Soraya Center of the Performance Arts buoyed the cinematic experience; so befitting of the elegance of the film and orchestra.
On May 21-24 Jason Moran will be performing in San Francisco at the Miner’s Auditorium, along with guitarist Marvin Sewell, a roots-to-avant-garde string wizard. They will accompany two screenings of Selma with the San Francisco Philharmonic conducted by Sarah Hicks, offering an immersive experience of an inordinately powerful film.
Denise Thomas is a freelance entertainment writer based in Southern California.