Dozens of films have been created to depict the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.—but none have been as riveting and piercing as ‘Selma’. In delicate detail, the movie highlights the three 1965 Selma to Montgomery marches which ultimately led to the passage of the 1965 Voting Rights Act. The movie also resurfaces sensitive topics like MLK’s marital infidelity, FBI wire tapings and intimidation tactics, and the initial pushback from the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC).
Directed by Ava DuVernay, the movie has a crowded lineup including David Oyelowo, Oprah Winfrey, Carmen Ejogo, Tom Wilkinson, Tim Roth, Common, Lorraine Toussaint, and Cuba Gooding, Jr. Oyelowo and Ejogo were spitting images of the Nobel Peace Prize recipient and his late wife. From voice to posture to presentation, the pair is the most potent part of the film. Their lonesome moments together on screen echoes true unification of one of the greatest couples of all time.
Even some of the notable moments in history makes your whole body shake in disbelief when ‘Selma’ reenacts the occurrences. For example, the 4 little girls and the bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church is one of the country’s most heinous crimes. We ought to all be familiar with it, but for some reason when DuVernay gives her rendition of the bombing it takes cinematic recreation to a whole new level.
The same approaches civil rights activists displayed in 1965 are mirror images of the work being committed today. Riots and protests have emerged all over the country for Oscar Grant, Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, and Eric Garner. In my mind the biggest uproar has been in the small suburb of St. Louis, Missouri. Ferguson has drawn thousands of people in hope to get answers and justice.
Selma is the ideal learning tool for this Black History Month. As the first major motion picture depicting Martin Luther King, Jr.’s life, ‘Selma’ can be a direct connection to opening up conversation about other tense cities like Watts in 1965, Los Angeles in 1992, and even, Ferguson in 2014.
Gun violence and police brutality in 2015 is what voting rights was in 1965– a call to action to promote unity and change. Fifty years later, racially motivated disparities of the world are an opportunity to respond like they did in Selma. Anytime we witness a racial injustice or inequality it is our duty to mount up in the same fashion as the leaders in Selma.
The most rewarding part of Selma is the showcase of the unsung heroes like Coretta Scott King, Andrew Young, Viola Liuzzo, John Lewis, James Reeb, and Ralph Abernathy. American history injects lethal amount of untold truths surrounding African American history. As a child, I was taught the bare minimum about slavery and Martin Luther King Jr. was the poster child for the Civil Rights Movements. It is pure excitement when movies like Selma, 12 Years A Slave, and Lee Daniels’ The Butler can bring cinematic clarity to these unknown circumstances of historical events.
DuVernay wasted no time getting straight to the point. My only question is: Where has Ava DuVernay been? Although she has other smaller film projects, we, as movie spectators, need more from her cinematic bank. Her delivery was mere perfection and visually, trumps every introductory African American History course by strategically focusing on the height of Dr. Martin Luther King’s career and intricate details that surrounded it.
5 STARS: ‘Selma’ is the best film of 2014 and serves a timely purpose in the wake of the civil rights and liberties that are currently being taken advantage of. This film is a fruitful yet frightening, gut-wrenching yet glorious reminder that Selma was just a battle in an on-going race war.