The year is 1964 and the President is Lyndon Johnson, (Tom Wilkinson from Batman Begins) even though segregation is illegal it is still present in the South. If you were a black man or women in the South legally you had the right to vote but that doesn’t mean that you could.Selma is the story of Martin Luther King Jr.’s march from Selma Alabama to the capital, Montgomery Alabama demanding that every man and women no matter their color have the right to vote. Selma stands as one of the greatest battle grounds for voting in history.
I think the way the movie begins shows how segregated the South really was. It begins with a black woman sitting on the bench of a courthouse. Waiting. Then you hear, “Annie Lee Cooper (Oprah Whinfrey), come on girl I don’t have all day.” Annie takes a deep breath, and then walks to the counter where a white man sits with the look of hate and disgust written all over his face.
Annie then goes through the motions of getting to vote. She recites the preamble, how many judges there are in the state and the name of the governor. And for a second you think she’s going to get her chance to vote until she is asked to name all sixty-seven judges. Of course she can’t name all sixty- seven judges and is denied but that is how it was in the south; white politicians using dirty tactics to keep black people from voting.
But Selma is more than just black people fighting for their right to vote using non-violence. It’s about the sacrifices people made so that they were given not only the right to vote but equality. No one knew more about sacrifice than Martin Luther King Jr. (David Oyelowo from The Butler). This movie shows that even though he was one of the greatest civil rights leaders of our time he still was a man. It shows how vulnerable he was, the doubt, the feeling of fighting for something with everything you have and feeling like you are getting nowhere.
The tension between him and his wife Coretta Scott King played by Carmen Ejogo from “Sparkle” and the toll it takes on her. The constant fear of losing your children or your husband and the fear of death constantly knocking on your door is what Coretta went through.
It is rare when a director is able to take history and amazing actors and make you feel like you have stepped back into history. To bring characters to life and leave you feeling and seeing the emotional toll that it not only took on Dr. King and his family but on every black person fighting for their right to vote. Showing the restraint it took to negotiate, demonstrate and resist from violence.
For example Jimmie Lee Jackson (Keith Stanfield, “Purge: Anarchy”) who was shot by a state trooper in plain sight for night marching. Who wanted his grandfather, Cager Lee (Henry G. Sanders from Whiplash) to live so he could be the first in his family to vote.
This movie is heartbreaking, emotional, a historic lesson in history that is eye opening to how difficult it was to be a black person in the south or a white person who believed in equality for all. Bring tissues because this movie is bound to be a tear jerker and men are not immune. So I encourage people of every color to go see Selma in theatres now! You won’t be disappointed.