On Selma: A Perspective

Selma: The movie

Setting: Selma, Alabama, early 1965 during the Civil Rights era

Me: At the time, a 12-year old living in rural Ohio, and oblivious to the actual meaning of the movement, but aware of events at a 12-year-old level

The movie trailer

From the opening scene, Selma is a historical, powerful, suspenseful drama that took me through many emotions – shock, sad, joy, shame, pride, surprise, awe, and probably others. Although I knew elements of the story and how it ends, the film was absorbing and suspenseful. Although it appeared to creep through time, the film moved at a reasonable pace and kept me engaged.

The film centers on important names that I already know: Martin Luther King, Andrew Young, Coretta Scott King, John Lewis, Ralph Abernathy, Malcolm X, Lyndon Johnson, and George Wallace … and some important ones that I didn’t know. I don’t know what percentage of the film is factual, but I’m confident that enough of it is for historical relevancy.

I appreciated David Oyelowo’s portrayal of Dr. King, and wow … the voice and the demeanor! As Dr. King’s wife, Carmen Ejogo’s displayed someone stoic, solid, and supportive.

Tributes to the event with video and images

Selma is a cultural barometer that provokes thought. Because then and now are points in time, it shows how far American society has come since those dark days yet, it should help one realize how far we still have to go. Shamefully, events like Ferguson, Missouri, New York City, and others still exist, but there is no way I can be convinced that the overall situation isn’t better today than 1965 and earlier … and Selma helps cement my belief.

With Martin Luther King Day being this coming Monday, this weekend would be an excellent time to see Selma.

Below is a short video that starts in the early 60s yet ends in 2009. It’s one of my favorite videos here because it speaks volumes to me about perspective, about growth, and about the hope that humanity can provide.

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69 thoughts on “On Selma: A Perspective

  1. That’s an amazing video illustrating how lives can be turned around. My first instinct is to be skeptical about the congressman’s change of heart, but I just finished reading ‘Unbroken’, about Olympian, Louis Zamperini, who was mercilessly tortured by the Japanese during World War II. After the war he found Christ and returned to Japan to meet and forgive his gaolers. Words fail me and it doesn’t happen often 🙂

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    • Malcolm,
      Change for the young of that era must have been very difficult – so being skeptical is understandable. I recall this story when it happened, and it frequently pops into my mind as a wonderful example of forgiveness. Pope John Paul II forgiving the his shooter … an Amish community forgiving the surviving family of the person whose murder-suicide spree at a local school … The reconciliation period for South Africans after years of Apartheid was a monumental cultural event involving forgiveness … these are simply wonderful examples, but yes, too few do this.

      BTW, in this case, the Congressman was one attacked … not the attacker.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. We saw the movie Sunday. It reminded me of those difficult days. As we left the theater, we both remarked how far we’ve come and how far we need to go. The movie highlighted both the good in people and the evil. Things we will always have. In some ways, we have seen progress. We must keep trying.

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  3. Selma is on my must-see list, that’s for sure. Milton and I saw David Oyelowo in another new film A Most Violent Year. I thought he was very good in that one. Milton, who saw Selma while I was in California, was very impressed with his performances in both films.

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      • The same as if you went at 8 at night: about $14 or $15. AMC theaters charge $8 if you go before noon, or at least that was the price in 2014. IMAX and 3D cost even more, around $18 to $20, but they cost less before noon, again at AMC theaters. Due to a combination of increased ticket cost vs my low wages and all of my weekend off-Broadway ushering, I see far fewer films now. I simply can’t afford it. I attend the New York Film Festival off Milton’s membership. Those screenings set us back $16 to around $20. Going last year cost us around $385. We saw at least 20 films but paid about 25% less than full price. I saved to make sure I could attend.

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        • Movie prices are crazy! It appears the biggest difference in prices here are with the matinees, so $7.50 matinee prices go till 6 pm … but I went on Tuesday as prices are $5.50 all day.

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        • That’s a great deal. For about 15 years I was a member of IFP, the Independent Feature Project. Through that I got into countless A-list screenings for free and I could take a guest. Membership was $100. Two years ago they moved the entire operation to Brooklyn, too much of a schlep for this Manhattanite and my day job schedule. They’d even let me renew for $80, and that kills me. But getting out there after work is impossible for me. Such a drag. Milton misses it, too. We had a good deal going through them for years.

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        • Our Tuesday deal is awesome. Hope it lasts! Your IFP membership sounds like a deal as well … bummer they moved. I wonder about the breakdown of a ticket … in other words, who gets what.

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  4. I still want to see Selma, haven’t made my way to the theater yet. I have spent to much time studying those times and specifically the Freedom Riders and the Civil Rights Movement. Honestly? I think we began to move, but now I think we are retreating, regressing. I think we had started to progress but it has all been on a downward spiral and what happened in New York, Ferguson, Florida, Texas these are all simply the outward manifestations of that regression.

    Thank you Frank. I am so glad to hear you liked Selma. Your recommendation is one I trust.

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    • Val,
      It should be interesting to see how long Selma sticks around the theaters. It was on multiple screens at my theater, so I imagine both screens should get good attendance this weekend. Meanwhile most (if not all) aspects of life has it’s ups and downs. In terms of race, I see it as a stock market graph …. up and down, up and down, up and down … but then one must examine the overall trend to see the true direction.

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  5. We definitely plan to see this movie, and you’re the first person I know to have seen it. I’m so glad you recommend it. I’m a year older than you, Frank, so I think our memories of that period in history are probably somewhat similar. I think this movie must carry a significantly emotional punch! Thank you for such a great review!

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    • Debra,
      In some ways, the movie is a slap in the face … a punch in the gut because it’s hard to believe that people treated each other like that. In terms of the post, I tried to weave a bit of a review with the event into one post … after all, I’m far from a film critic.

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  6. A part of me doesn’t want to see this movie. I grew up in the south during the 1950’s and early 1960’s and I remain partly ashamed that I at that time I was too young, too ignorant, and too immature, to speak out against the discrimination and garden variety racial hatred that was all around me. I plan to see Selma this weekend.

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  7. Definitely on my to-see list. As a Canadian, I am fascinated/horrified by that part of your history and agree with Val that things seem to be going backwards lately. I hope you are right and that in the big picture, between the ups and downs that there is a forward movement.

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  8. Thank you for the review Mr Frank. I dare say it will be out here in Australia in about 5 years time and I will catch it in 10 years time when it comes to television.

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  9. I saw “Selma” today. It’s a very good movie. I agree that just because situations and events such as Ferguson have occurred, it doesn’t mean the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act were not important. I was a child when these events were taking place, but even as a historian, I didn’t remember all of them or their sequence. People need reminders. Every step is important.

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    • Merril,
      Welcome first-time commenter. Are you over from SK’s?

      Great point about the sequence of events, both within Selma and how Selma fit into the events around it. Oh yes, those of us who were young at the time probably didn’t understand the significance until later in life. Glad to know that you enjoyed the movie, especially as a historian!

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  10. Frank, I loved this movie. I saw it last weekend and I was feeling a rush of emotions as well. My family has marched and I’ve heard a lot of stories. But seeing it visually was something I didn’t know how to take. I know you were wondering how much of it was real, well a lot of it (if not all) was factual. We definitely have come along way, and we still have work to do. When people can just be judged as people, then it’s over. Some may feel like you can’t change what happened so why watch this movie. Well, one must know where things originate in order to effect change. So whether most want to see it or not, this movie needs to be seen. Thank you for this post.

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    • Kay,
      Cheers to you for saluting the movie as well. I just saw a comment on a TV show saying they were amazed Selma received so few Oscar nominations.

      I have no doubt that this was real and factual, but I simply wondering how the screenwriter filled in the gaps. The interplay between President Johnson & Dr. King was fascinating, but if one listens to the actual phone calls, it seems President Johnson was even more supportive than the movie indicated. In the short bios at the end, I was surprised that they didn’t state that Gov Wallace (in the 1970s) apologized and sought forgiveness for his segregationist acts. Most importantly … cheers to your families efforts!!!!

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      • You’re absolutely right, I have no idea why President Johnson and Dr. King’s relationship was so strained. I don’t know if there is something we didn’t know or what. I was more surprised that the movie theater, during matinee, was packed lol. I guess everyone wants a deal. Going to the movies is just getting too expensive.

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  11. I’ve seen the previews of this movie & look forward to catching it when it comes out on Netflix.
    Just watching the previews boiled my blood to see how people got treated – merely for the color of their skin. We’ve come a long way since then. Then again – we haven’t.

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  12. Thanks for the review. I plan on seeing the movie soon. I had heard that LBJ was not portrayed accurately (he was much more sympathetic to our cause than the movie gives him credit for). That’s too bad. Often John F. Kennedy is given more credit than he should have been. If it had been solely left up to Kennedy, I’d still be living in the ghetto of Cleveland. LBJ put his family’s life on the line (remember Lady Bird being spat upon by a disgruntled southerner?), and his presidency to help get the voting act passed.

    I love, love, love the video of Lewis and his former attacker. Things like that give me great hope for the human race.

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    • E-Tom,
      We may have seen the same news report about LBJ’s portrayal, which I saw before the movie. I was tuned into that very point … and even with that, I thought the director was fair with LBJ. But the thought of that news report made me wonder about the accuracy of some of the details. Then again, as a reader said here, it’s a movie – not a documentary (which is a good point).

      Speaking of LBJ, many believe (as do I) that the Civil Right Act and related legislation turn the “Solid South” from Democratic to Republican.

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      • Yep, I know a lot about that history and I’ll be watching the movie very carefully. You are quite right that LBJ’s actions turned the Solid South from Democratic to Republican and Nixon capitalized on that shift. You’re also right, it is just a movie, but something as significant as the full truth of LBJ’s roll shouldn’t be tampered with. If we are ever going to be a strong, vibrant multi-cultural, loving society, we have to applaud those who show courage and damn those who are weasels. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

    • Sun,
      Instead of reviewing the movie, I aimed at putting some thoughts about the movie into the context of the situation – thus kind of a quasi review. Because I already knew of and greatly appreciate the last video, I knew that’s how I wanted to end it … then searched for the middle videos. Let me know what you think of the movie after you see it.

      Liked by 1 person

  13. Good to read your thoughts on this film. I probably will not see it
    I was in college at the time (and did my share of marches and protests.) My oldest cousin marched in Selma. She was murdered because to it. Explosive device tossed in her apt. Case still open.
    My dad as a 6yr old stood with his shot gun armed father and his 4 older brothers between some drunks on horseback dressed in sheets and a terrified black neighbor family who sometimes sheltered in my grandparents’ barn in East TX. It may have been a rural area, but few supported the Klan there. Everyone was dirt poor and worked the fields together.
    I’ve lived in many places. There are good and bad in all groups.
    Someone once said recently that accuracy of films is important now as so many of the younger generation will only get their history from films and TV shows.
    Progress is made slowly, but progress is made with determination.
    Do unto others as you would have done unto you. Not a bad thing to teach.

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