Last night, I had the opportunity to see Selma, which chronicled Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s leadership alongside other notable leaders and activists during the Civil Rights Movement, specifically during the march from Selma, Alabama to Montgomery. Shown in limited release starting Christmas, the movie was officially released January 9th. From watching, it's clear why this film earned four Golden Globe nominations, which airs tonight by the way (and probably soon some Oscar noms as well)!

Directed by Ava DuVernay, the film was a superb look at this important piece of not only African-American history, but American history in general. Selma stars British actor David Oyelowo as Dr. King, who truly BECAME this man, from his voice to demeanor. That, to me, is always the mark of a true actor--to be able to become a character so much so that you never really notice the actor playing him or her. British actress Carmen Ejogo played Dr. King's wife, Coretta Scott King, and portrayed Coretta's grace and strength incredibly as well.

Without giving too much away, though many of us already have learned the facts about this
movement, the film depicts Dr. King and other leaders like Ralph Abernathy, James Bevel, John LewisHosea Williams, and other members of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) and the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) in their efforts in Selma to break down barriers, specifically blacks being able to vote to make difference in their community and have justice served against discrimination, especially in the South. Though the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was passed by President Lyndon B. Johnson, King still pressed him about the voting issue, seeing as though no change could really be made without blacks being able to make their voices heard. It was a huge fight, with the people of Selma, along with other supporters black and white, eventually marching miles to Montgomery, Alabama to have their voices heard (in spite of two failed attempts, one ending in many beaten and bruised by police). The film ended with President Johnson finally sending the Voting Rights Act of 1965 to Congress, and it was passed and signed into law.

I loved that the movie showed Dr. King as a strong leader, but also showed that he was human. He had his imperfections, like his recorded infidelities and damaged relationship with Coretta, as well as his doubts in terms of his leadership and legacy. Viewers see that the movement, while so very vital to this country, had a heavy impact on Dr. King's personal life. He was arrested and thrown in jail many times, and threatened countless occasions over the phone, before his assassination (which, from the movie, he seemed to know was coming). The FBI, under the leader of J. Edgar Hoover, even wired the man's house to not only figure out the plans of the movement, but also to find evidence to pit Dr. King and Coretta against each other (like with the recorded infidelity), so that Dr. King would maybe decide to give up to focus on saving his family. However, his sacrifices, along with so many others, were, obviously, not in vain.

There were many small moments as well that had incredible impact and and really shook me. For example, the bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church which killed four little girls on September 15, 1963. It was so sudden and unexpected in the film, as it was that very day, that it threw me emotionally for a bit especially since it happened so early in the film. There was also a small cameo from Oprah Winfrey, who played Annie Lee Cooper, known for punching Selma Sheriff Jim Clark during a protest in front of the Selma Courthouse. Afterwards, she was taken down and beaten severely. There was another moment that resonated with me, when activist Jimmie Lee Jackson was shot and killed after participating in a peaceful protest. After doing my research, I found that the state trooper who killed him pleaded guilty to manslaughter in 2010, and only served six months in prison. All of these moments reminded me what a huge sacrifice all of those who participated in the Civil Rights Movement really made, even though some did not live to see the positive end result.

I won't turn my review into a preaching moment, but my love and appreciation of historical movies has grown immensely as I have gotten older, specifically in terms of African-American history. As a proud black woman, I always love seeing movies that depict the Civil Rights Movement, the good, the bad, and the disgustingly ugly, because it reminds me personally that I have a duty to be better and do more than those who came before me. Why? Because I have the opportunity to, and so many others didn't. At 24, I've been able to do so much that my predecessors probably deemed impossible. Though, especially looking at these past few years, we clearly don't live in a "post-racial" society, and have a long way to go, I still know that America has come a long way.

Go see this movie! Though part of me wishes that the movie focused beyond mostly Dr. King, it was still so powerful and inspiring. The cinematography is absolutely incredible, to the point where you feel like you are right in Selma then. Every scene, especially the negative, is right in your face. It really moved me. The cast, which also included Tom Wilkinson, Tim Roth, Common, Lorraine Toussant, Tessa Thompson, and more, was remarkable as a whole. Definitely a movie I want in my collection when it comes out later in the year!

RATING:  (five out of five stars)

What did you think of the movie? Include your comments below!

Images via Vanity Fair/Google

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