Movie Review: Selma
By, Celli Arenas
The Civil Rights Act of 1964 legally desegregated the South. Unfortunately, discrimination was still rampant in certain areas, which made it very difficult for blacks to register to vote. In 1965, an Alabama city became the home of the fight for suffrage.
Despite opposition, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. (David Oyelowo) and his followers pressed forward on a historical march from Selma to Montgomery across the historic Edmund Pettus Bridge. Finally, their efforts resulted in President Lyndon Johnson signing the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
“Selma” was released on, December 25, 2014 (USA) was directed by, Ava DuVernay, and produced by, Brad Pitt, Christian Colson, Dede Gardner,Oprah Winfrey, Jeremy Kleiner and through production companies: Pathé, Plan B, Entertainment, and Cloud Eight Films.
Selma received several Golden Globe nominations, but took home the Globe for the best original song, “Glory” performed by Common and John Legend. Common, who also co-starred in the film, gave a rousing acceptance speech that not only serves as evident humble gratitude but even more of a strong call to action for us all to recognize and continue the passion filled fight of our ancestors. Common’s acceptance speech evokes a spirtiual response that encourages us to continue the fight today, without wavering.
David Oyelowo played Martin Luther King, Jr. in a riveting performance. He provided an intimate look in to the life of a leader who was spiritually and morally challenged to provide a beacon of light for the community while providing the loving supportive leadership of his own household. His challenges go far beyond what pictures and speeches provide. We get to peek into his private space. For instance, when he calls to wake Mahalia Jackson out of her bed where she lay peacefully with her husband, to allow him to, “hear the voice of God.” She sings him a lullaby that gives him the strength to press on.
Oprah Winfrey portrayed Annie Lee Cooper, who was denied the right to vote several times for reasons too trifling to recount. Although her role as Cooper meshed well within the several back stories of freedom fighters, her performance is eerily reminiscent of her portrayal of Miss Sofia in “The Color Purple”.
Carmen Ejogo who plays Coretta Scott King, gave what I feel was the most convincing and heart-warming performance. She not only embodied the beauty of Coretta Scott King, she was able to convincingly express her spirit, as well. Recently, on the Ellen Show, Winfrey mentioned that the King children agreed Ms. Ejongo’s performance was spot-on. The King descendants believed that she perfected Coretta Scott King’s mannerisms, speech pattern, stance, walk, and overall demeanor. There is no greater compliment to be given than that. What an honor.
The scene that affected me the most was when Hoover relays his utter disgust for King and his leadership. He says, “We can weaken the dynamic, dismantle the home…” It became the pet project of the US Government to weaken King’s power of persuasion over the people by attempting to dismantle his home and his family’s security. For maintaining a strong home, and a balanced life for their children, Coretta Scott King did a job that inspires awe.
Perhaps the most evil of all characters was Governor George Wallace played by Tim Roth. His performance signifies and symbolizes the hatred that beat in the hearts of many during that contentious era. We are able to capture a behind the scenes look at how laws were passed and how rules were manipulated through his interaction with his subordinates and with his superior, President Johnson.
I did not review every performance, nor did I want to spoil the film by giving away too much. I definitely recommend that you see Selma, not only for the biographical and historical significance, but also for its relevance in today’s present political landscape. While we may point to our leaders to make change, we must first think, speak, act, and commit to positive change. Watching the sea of humanity cross the Edmund Pettus Bridge gave me an overwhelming sense of purpose and responsibility to not let the fight of our forefathers go in vain. We are all responsible. We are all Selma.
Celli Arenas, published author, has been featured in several magazines, such as: MIA Magazine, Success Magazine, Legacy Magazine. She is the host blogger at http://www.cellibration.com, and hosts MIA-Live.net for BlogTalk Radio. She has also published two books, “30 Days of Dynamic Pursuit” a self-help journal, and “Sidetracked: He Used To Love Me”, a coming of age novel, both are available at amazon.com.