While everyone was gearing towards seeing the new 50 Shades film (still not watched it – I’m a little unsure), my friends and I went to see Selma. We love a good movie that refers to historical events, and Selma didn’t disappoint us.
Starring the brilliant David Oyelowo as Martin Luther King, Jr. and directed by Ava DuVernay, the film centres on the events in Selma where MLK leads a march to Montgomery in his campaign for equal voting rights.
I’m shocked and disappointed that Oyelowo’s performance has been dismissed in this year’s Oscars as I truly thought he was exceptional in Selma. His performance is passionate, impressive and powerful. Oyelowo easily became the inspiring and influential leader on-screen and I was moved by not only his performance, but of the story of Selma, and the struggle and eventual victory of their campaign when President Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
Family and friends asked me what I thought of the film and I would reply with “Horrible. The scenes were horrible. But they were supposed to be.” Selma shows the disgusting way in which discrimination and racism were rife in areas of America in the 60s. Scenes are violent with beatings and shootings and deaths. The white man is the enemy in this film, and it’s shocking and disgusting to watch these violent events that actually happened only 5 decades ago.
The activists are met with confrontations, arrests, violence and constant suppression – all because they want the simple right to vote in elections. They choose to march together in a peaceful manner to protest for their rights, knowing full well that they will be met with anger and repression. Their goal is to be seen by all of America – and to do this they need to be shown on TV and in newspapers. They want to grab the attention of the nation and, more importantly, the President of the United States who can stop all of the violence and the protests with a simple movement of his pen by signing a bill to eliminate racial discrimination in voting.
Their protests are shown throughout the nation, with Martin Luther King shown as their leading man. Scenes are broadcast live at national landmark Edward Pettus Bridge as the activists are met with state troopers who tell the activists that they have 2 minutes to disperse. Upon asking to speak with the Major, the troopers put on their gas masks and began their uncalled for retaliation. Hitting the marchers with clubs, tear gas, horses, whips and other weapons, they are forced to retreat from the bridge while others are left lying injured from the troopers attacks.
After seeing the events on TV, Martin Luther King asks for those that stand for equal rights to join the activists for a second march – revisiting the bridge to cross over from Selma to Montgomery. More supporters join the group to show that they’re not about to back down, including white Americans from other states. When they reach the bridge, the troopers don’t stand in a defensive line as they had done before, instead they part to let the march through. King kneels and prays with the other activists on the bridge, and when he rises to his feet, he turns the march back to Selma for fear that the troopers hope to trick and trap the activists. Members of the march are angry that King forced them to miss their opportunity, but he states that he would rather have people be angry with him than for them to be dead.
With the march over, a white minister and pastor from Boston – James Reeb – is attacked and killed after his involvement in the march by two white men. It is only with his death that the President is then persuaded to ask for quick passage of the bill that would soon become the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
Their achievement leads the activists to march back to Montgomery, where King makes a powerful speech to tell them that African-Americans still have a way to go before reaching equality – but that their victory is approaching. At this moment during the speech the film uses on-screen text to tell us what happened to each character in the film, giving us information that we may not have known – some gives us hope while others are saddening (for example Viola Luizzo, who after MLK’s speech is killed a few hours later when taking fellow activists back to Selma).