Becoming King (2024)

Becoming King (2024)

It’s an admirable passion project, but this documentary tracking David Oyelowo’s seven-year journey to playing MLK holds little interest for the general viewer

6.5

Movie

United States of America
English
Documentary
2024
FEMALE DIRECTOR, JESSICA OYELOWO
Ava DuVernay, David Oyelowo, Jessica Oyelowo
66 min

TLDR

I would be terrified to learn my partner has been recording me for years for a project, but to each their own I suppose!

What it's about

Follows actor David Oyelowo as he painstakingly makes his dreams of playing Martin Luther King, Jr. in the film Selma a reality.

The take

As emotional and personal as it is, Becoming King is just too dewy-eyed and close to the source to have any bearing on those who are not all that interested in learning about the immersion process a Hollywood actor goes through. Jessica Oyelowo admittedly has an interesting story on her hands: that of her husband David Oyelowo (whose name literally means “respect the king”) fulfilling his seven-year dream of playing Martin Luther King, Jr. His journey is a combination of grit, talent, and what appears to be fate and destiny, and it is nothing short of inspiring, especially for aspiring actors. But there is an inherent bias in depicting this story as magical and heroic, without the thorny nuances other more distant filmmakers might’ve included. For one, it barely tackles class and race, and when it does, the discussions are short, superficial, and only in service to the real conflict of the documentary, which is whether or not Oyelowo achieves his acting dreams. It feels shortsighted in the way some passion projects can be, bolstered by limited funds and even fewer eyes to critique it. It’s well-meaning and personal, and it can serve as a helpful resource to those who want to know how to get into the industry. But for the general viewer, the documentary offers little more than standard information on the actor and his breakthrough film.

What stands out

The movie is Jessica Oyelowo’s first foray into documentary filmmaking, and despite the flaws mentioned above, there are signs of a promising career ahead. Even before knowing she’d be making a documentary, we see her already picking up a camera and having the instinct to interview relevant people and capture revealing behind-the-scenes moments. Knowing the limited budget docs work with, she leans into the home video aesthetic quite well and turns in something with a rugged charm to it. Given that she reworks her focus next time, I’m excited to see more of her work.

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