Martin Luther King Jr and I share a birthday. It gives me a point of common interest with this winner of the Nobel Peace Prize quite apart from his historical importance.
The whole black rights issue in America had strong knock on effects in Africa, and the various human rights battles fought in Africa had their effects on what was happening in America … this despite the isolationism South Africa experienced, both self imposed to maintain Apartheid and imposed on them as a response to Apartheid. Thus it was with some interest that I approached Selma, the 2014 American historical drama movie released in time for February – Black History Month in the USA. It was written by Paul Webb and Ava DuVernay, based on the 1965 events in Selma.
The movie, directed by Ava DuVernay, unpacks the historical events of the voting rights marches from Selma to Montgomery so it doesn’t matter is one is clueless about the history … as I was.
The movie stars David Oyelowo as Martin Luther King, Jr, and Tom Wilkinson as President Lyndon Johnson, Tim Roth as George Wallace and Carmen Ejogo as Coretta Scott King. The movie was produced by Oprah Winfrey who played the role of Annie Lee Cooper, the woman who tried to register as a voter.
The 50th anniversary of the 81 kilometre march (on 7 March) is still coming up and I expect the movie will be shown all over the world on that date and the days that follow. The march took five days to complete. The movie juxtaposes its action with actual footage from the 1965 march and this is very, very powerful stuff. As Dr King speaks from the steps of the Alabama State Capitol, so the movies real life counterparts are screened, together with their various fates.
Congress eventually passed a bill later in 1965 to eliminate restrictions on black voters.
There is nothing not to like in this movie. The performances, the cinematography, the writing of the plot are all inspiring, dramatic and challenging. It is worth seeing regardless that it is American history because it is not only world history but the history of a struggle which has not quite been won yet … the struggle of black people against racism wherever it is found.
I give this movie a rare 10/10.