Selma Review

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Exactly one year ago Selma was released into movie theaters across the nation. Today, on the birthday of the Martin Luther King Jr, I sit down to watch this movie for extra credit.  The highly recommended film has received numerous awards over the past year.  Yet, some critics have deemed these nominations to be far too few, and their support for the movie is certainly justified. This film honors both King and his legacy in a intriguing and moving way. Furthermore, in light of the recent protests regarding race and religion, the film brings the ideas of activism to a full circle.

The movie is titled after Selma, Alabama, the town where MLK tried to change policies that barred black citizens from voting. The movie highlights King’s struggles with Lyndon B Johnson to get the Voting Rights Act of 1965 passed and the preparation and occurrence of the 1965 Selma to Montgomery voting rights marches.

Going into the movie, I had an expectation to see a biopic chronicling the life and times of Martin Luther King Jr. However, these expectations were quickly refuted.  In one of the opening scenes in the movie, Annie Lee Cooper, depicted by Oprah Winfrey, attempts to register to vote in the town of Selma. She has all her papers in order and correctly answers the first question the voting registrar asks her. But when she cannot answer an absurd and impossible question, she is denied the right to vote. This is the first of many heartbreaking scenes that focus on the injustices that black Americans faced.

In addition to the injustices, the film takes a close look at the way Martin Luther King Jr. worked. His stubborn nature is shown through his consistent refusal to back down. While he had the support of many activists and groups in leading the march, change was a daunting, arduous task. 

It is important to remember that this movie is a product of Hollywood, and is therefore, not completely historically accurate. Such changes allowed the events to portrayed with significantly more heart and drama. The changes the producers made were, therefore, positive choices as it forced me to see that these historical events were more than facts.  While I was watching all the marches and protests I wanted to be right there partaking in them.

The most moving scenes in the film were the ones that depicted police brutality. There are many instances in the film where peaceful protesters are mercilessly beaten by cops. These scenes reminded me of the types of protests occurring today for victims of police brutality such as Michael Brown and Eric Garner. But coupled with the scenes of white American civilians showing cruelty to black Americans, their level of bigotry and cruelty is both shocking and horrifying.  

Selma’s moving characters and intriguing plot contribute to its overall excellence as a historical film. The movie further elevates King’s legacy and shows how far America has come even despite its continued fights for equal rights in the justice system. This movie goes past the basic historical facts and takes a deep look at the issue of civil rights. Go out and see Selma; you will leave the theater with something important to think about.

by: Rebecca Epemolu