Reviewed by: Brian C. Johnson
being willing to die for what you believe in
1960s African—American Civil Rights Movement
Selma to Montgomery marches that led to the passage of the 1965 Voting Rights Act
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. (Wikipedia)
President Lyndon B. Johnson
civil rights marches
nonviolent demonstrations versus riots
Governor George Wallace
Southern Christian Leadership Conference
David Oyelowo … Martin Luther King Jr.
Martin Sheen … Frank Minis Johnson
Dylan Baker … J. Edgar Hoover
Tom Wilkinson … President Lyndon B. Johnson
Giovanni Ribisi … Lee C. White
Cuba Gooding Jr. … Fred Gray
Tim Roth … George Wallace
Alessandro Nivola … John Doar
Carmen Ejogo … Coretta Scott King
Oprah Winfrey … Annie Lee Cooper
Wendell Pierce … Reverend Hosea Williams
Tessa Thompson … Diane Nash
Common … James Bevel
Lorraine Toussaint … Amelia Boynton
Niecy Nash … Richie Jean Jackson
Keith Stanfield … Jimmie Lee Jackson
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Cloud Eight Films
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On December 10, 1964, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., addressed the world as the recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize. King begins,
“I accept the Nobel Prize for Peace at a moment when 22 million Negroes of the United States of America are engaged in a creative battle to end the long night of racial injustice. I accept this award on behalf of a civil rights movement which is moving with determination and a majestic scorn for risk and danger to establish a reign of freedom and a rule of justice.”
So begins director Ava DuVernay’s “Selma.” Standing on the stage in Oslo, Norway, King (David Oleyowo) shares his concern for the people of the American South who have ben denied such basic human rights essentially afforded to them by the Constitution of the United States, namely the right to vote.
Just as Gettysburg was a pivotal moment in the turning of the Civil War, Selma, Alabama was the tipping point of the American Civil Rights Movement. Much has happened since the Montgomery Bus Boycott had changed the public transit system. Organizations like the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) and the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) had made tremendous efforts to destabilize the status quo of maltreatment of black citizens. King and his colleagues had effectively garnered support for societal change, but King realized that significant federal legislation, specifically voting rights protections, would only happen if the entire nation’s consciousness was raised. He needed President Lyndon Johnson to use the power of the Oval Office to enforce freedom and justice for all.
“Selma” is a victorious film that reintroduces our nation to its own history, especially the strategic nature of the Civil Rights Movement. The film is successful in its depictions of the complexities of figuring out the “right” thing to do as well as the rivalries between the big personalities of those involved, including Johnson himself (Tom Wilkinson). Wilkinson’s portrayal of Johnson has been questioned and panned in popular social media. LBJ was a politician, just like Lincoln, who acted in his own political best interest—and only when his hand was forced. The film also accurately examines the internal conflicts within the leaders of the movement including James Farmer and John Lewis.
It explores King’s “competition” with Malcolm X and the hatred he faced from the likes of the FBI’s director J. Edgar Hoover (Dylan Baker) and Governor George Wallace (Tim Roth). DuVernay also takes on the long-held belief that King had dalliances with other women beside his wife Coretta (Carmen Ejogo).
It is violent and gut-wrenching, but it truthful in its use of violence. The film especially confronts the violence of “Bloody Sunday,” the moniker used to describe the actions of the law enforcement officers who led an all-out assault on the non-violent, passive resistors. The film is brilliant for how it connects the Selma of 1964 to our present-day national discussions on race and the criminal justice system (e.g., Ferguson, MO). It is tough to watch, but eye-opening.
In my opinion, “Selma” is a must-see film. In his real life, Dr. King appealed specifically to the body of Christ to not be complacent in their duty to act to change a society for the betterment of all. “Selma” does the same thing—this is a call to action. What will YOU do to insert the love of Christ into a broken world?
Violence: Heavy to extreme / Profanity: Heavy—“G*d-d*mn” (5), “Oh my Lord” (2), “How in Chr*st’s sakes?”, “J*sus H. Chr*st,” “d*mn” (7), “hell” (3), *ss (2), f-words (2), s-words (7), SOB / Sex/Nudity: Moderate—contents of harrassing phone message (no nudity)
See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.