It’s actually quite funny how I came about enjoying this film.
I am usually not a proponent of films depicting historical figures because they depict the figures in such a light that they are not anything like themselves. Many of the flaws are not displayed, nor are the all of the benevolent aspects of their character. Usually Hollywood presents us with their white-washed version of history.
However, Selma is not one of those films.
Directed by and co-written by Ava DuVernay, Selma is about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the journey he and his colleagues took to the 1965 Selma to Montgomery march. I won’t go into detail, for you can google the synopsis of the film. It was released on December 25th, 2014, but I did not view the film until about a week after that. I was weary of the light that DuVernary would portray Dr. King in. Do not get me wrong, Dr. King was a great man and I appreciate what he has done for my people and for this corrupt country. Yet, Dr. King was human, and many try to make it seem like he was more than that, like a “god.”
DuVernay did not let me down though, from his cheating on Coretta down to the expression of his anger with Lyndon B. Johnson. She made him as human as possible, I didn’t see any augmentations in the film. If anything it was the most realistic portrayal I could have imagined based upon my knowledge of Dr. King.
The film, was not controversial in my eyes. It depicted the United States the way it was in the late 20th Century, ignorant and incoherent. Nonetheless, the rest of the country disagreed and threw a fit. The main critique was that DuVernay “re-wrote” history. Many people did not appreciate how she portrayed President Johnson or how she made Dr. King so “radical.” This confuses me though, because most of the film was based upon the FBI’s tracking of Dr. King’s every move and the tapping of his phone lines. Now, if “re-writing” history is portraying everyone as they were, then DuVernay “re-wrote” history, if not I am not really sure where this criticism is coming from.
Well, actually I am. Most of white America wanted/wants Dr. King to be the civil rights figure on “their side” badly. Even today, I can walk around my dormitory hallways and see quotes that do not really convey the fiery passion that Dr. King really had. These quotes are centered around the “I Have a Dream” speech or really just the most mild-mannered statements he ever made. None of these quotes speak to the human rights that Dr. King believed Black people should have or express to what extent he was not proud of the nation and its powers at large.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was not Malcolm X, but his legacy should not be based upon mild-manners, and I believe DuVernay would agree. After viewing the film, I was filled with emotion and even more so once realizing that the country really did not enjoy the film. American Sniper a racist, and to be frank, waste of a film that was released mid-January ended up grossing more than Selma and probably will once both are released on DVD and blu-ray.
My country would rather watch mentally-ill soldiers shoot innocent women and children, than gain an understanding about the events that led up to one of the most important marches this nation has ever witnessed. Initially I was, but I am no longer surprised. This is America, a capitalist nation driven by war. Most of our money is spent on weapons and warfare, usually conflict that we have no business engaging in, but that’s another opinion.
Back to Selma…
I encourage everyone, regardless of race, gender, sex, religion, sexual orientation, whatever you identify with, whoever you are for or against, watch Selma and you will be moved. Moved to seek more information and moved to make a difference.