I grew up in the 2000s. I do not know first hand the struggles of discrimination. I do not know what it’s like to be African-American, and I do not know what it must feel to be African-American today. With the news covered in images from Baltimore and Ferguson, and a Time magazine cover in black-and-white that reads “America
1968 2015″ I have done much deep contemplation on the role of race in modern civilization. Recently, I re-watched “Selma.” I find it appropriate that I share my thoughts on it.
A good movie will entertain its audience, but still there are some that put entertainment value aside and put teaching at the forefront. It is that distinction between entertainment and education that makes a movie great. “Selma” is one such movie.
“Selma” is not a movie about Martin Luther King, Jr. Dr. King was not alone. There were others: Andrew Young, Hosea Williams, Diane Nash, Amelia Boynton, and Ralph Abernathy. It was their determination – and the determination of thousands — that made the civil rights movement change the United States for the better.
I want to talk a little bit about the title. “Selma” is about the 1965 voting rights march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama. It’s appropriate because unlike “Lincoln,” it is not a movie about one man, Instead it is a movie about the people who worked towards the betterment of their fellow-man. Dr. King is portrayed by David Oyelowo. His performance is good, but as I watched the movie, I didn’t much care about his performance. I was more concerned about why Director Ava DuVernay hasn’t made more movies.
DuVernay is clearly a genius. Scenes such as the dramatization of the Birmingham Church bombing – in which four girls were killed – were so powerful and yet so unpredictable. I know my history. I knew as soon as I saw those girls walking down the stairs talking about how Coretta Scott King does her hair that they were going to die. But it still stunned me. DuVernay uses moments like these to pummel the fact that the victims of these prejudice fueled violent crimes were human beings.
“Selma” is shot beautifully. Cinematographer Bradford Young pays homage to photographers like Bill Hudson and James Karales with his work. There’s an almost journalistic integrity to Young’s form. Take the sequence of the Edmund Pettus Bridge (known in history as “Bloody Sunday”). Any hack would have used one frame shots to make up the montage of gore. But DuVernay and Young allow the camera to linger on the carnage. This resulted in a moment that would forever change my cinematic experience.
A movie going experience like “Selma” does not come around regularly. May we remember this movie in the same way we remembered those first few minutes of “Schindler’s List.” May the tears continue to flow like when Don Cheadle and family were led through the streets in “Hotel Rwanda.” May the movement be taught to those too young to remember as it was in “Milk.” May “Selma” continue to be the film that gave a relevant voice to those that followed Dr. King through rural Alabama.