Friday, January 9, 2015

Selma honors MLK and the Civil Rights Movement in a timely, sobering manner

Movie:   Selma

Grade:  A


In a Nutshell:  This is a sobering film to watch, and especially now as so many racist clashes have been occurring around the country.  It’s not only a historic memorial, but a part of the continuing story of our country. We have come a long way, but there is still so much more distance we need to go.  Oprah Winfrey's Harpo Films appropriately released this powerful film to run during January, when we honor Martin Luther King Jr. for what he was able to accomplish in the Civil Rights movement for our country.

I visited the “eternal flame” at the Martin Luther King Jr. Center in Atlanta, GA when I was just out of high school.  I remember buying one of the books in the bookstore while I was there and reading some of his speeches for the first time.  One thing I enjoyed about this film was that it lets us glimpse into the personal life and private moments of this amazing and, at times, flawed Civil Rights leader.

Uplifting Theme:
·         “I’m no different from anyone else.   I want to live long be happy.  But I’ll not be focusing on what I want today.  I’m focused on what God wants.  We’re here for a reason, though many, many storms.  But today, the sun is shining and I’m about to stand in its warmth alongside a lot of freedom-loving people who worked hard to get us here.  I may not be here for all the sunny days to come, but as long as there’s light ahead for them, it’s worth it to me.”  - Martin Luther King  Jr.

Things I liked:
·         It was disgraceful that African American men were given the right to vote in the 15th Amendment in 1870, but that they weren’t able to exercise those rights until many decades later.  Of course, women of any color weren’t allowed to vote until 1920. This film isn’t a history of the entire Civil Rights movement, but it takes a look at a small window of time in Selma, Alabama and that town’s struggle with suffrage.
·         I thought it was interesting to watch the interaction between Malcolm X and Mrs. King.  Although their tactics were different, they both wanted equal rights for the black community.
·         Several times Martin said unkind things to his wife and immediately apologized.  The movie portrayed a loving, forgiving marriage.
·         It’s difficult to watch such ignorant racism.  Tim Roth from Lie to Me: Season 1 does a great job portraying the bigoted and small-minded governor of Alabama.  (Season 1 was the best season, then it got a bit goofy.)
·         I thought British actor David Oyelowo did a FANTASTIC job as Martin Luther King Jr.   He nailed the accent and essence of the inspiring preacher.
·         I thought the song at the end was a clever mix of an earlier religious fervor with a modern-day respectful rap.
·         Tom Wilkinson did an excellent job portraying Lyndon B. Johnson’s conflicted attitudes prior to signing the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
·         Rarely in Hollywood movies are religious figures the heroes.  MLK and Christian values are portrayed in a very positive light in this film.

Things I didn’t like:
·         Someone barked “Jesus H. Christ!”  What does the “H” stand for?
      The movie is full of gravitas with no relief to counter-weigh the heaviness.

Inspiring lines:
·         “I accept this honor by our lost ones, whose deaths paved our paths,  and for the 20 million negro men and women motivated by dignity and a disdain for hopelessness.”  - Martin Luther King Jr. when he received the Peace prize from Norway
·         “There are no words.  But I can tell one thing for certain: God was the first one to cry for your boy.”  - Martin Luther King Jr. to the father of a young black man who was shot
·         “Our life is not fully lived unless we are willing to die for those we love for what we believe.” – Martin Luther King Jr.
·         “No citizen of this country can call themselves blameless, for we all bare responsibility for our fellowman.” – MLK
·         “I speak tonight about the dignity of man and the destiny of democracy.  At times, history and fate meet at the same time in a single place. “ – President Lyndon B. Johnson
·         “There is no negro problem.  There is no southern problem.  There is only an American problem.” – LBJ
·         “We shall do this.  We shall overcome.”  - MLK & LBJ

Tips for Parents:

·         2 F-bombs, bloody violence, upsetting scenes of brutality, full of racial slurs, vulgar hand gesture from actual footage of the time, reference to MLK’s affairs, and other profanity that are not appropriate for children.  Teenagers should be able to begin meaningful discussions about such topics as the Civil Rights movement, voting, equality, and racism after viewing this powerful film.

Another movie of this time period I recommend is The Butler.  You can read my review of that film here.

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