This weekend I went to go see Selma with the UMass Amherst History Department. I was not sure what to expect. All I knew about the movie was it covered the life of Martin Luther King Jr. I did not have any prior knowledge about the march that took place in Selma, Alabama or the events that lead up to it, which the movie follows. But, even from the beginning, the film was amazing. The acting was phenomenal and really hit home the feelings in which these people at this time must have felt.
David Oyetokunbo Oyelowo played King perfectly. During the speeches he performed throughout the movie that were reminiscent of the ones King actually preached in real life, the viewer could feel deep emotion and passion in his voice. It was as if he was King himself. At multiple points in the movie his words brought tears to my eyes. Hearing about the history of racism is one thing, but seeing it brought to life, it is hard to even explain how to feel. During the movie there was police brutality very much present in these people’s lives. It was clear that just because they were black, white citizens felt complete hatred in their hearts towards them. The violence present in the movie, though hard to watch at times, showed me how passionate and loving the people a part of the civil rights movement were back then.
Even though the film portrayed King’s involvement in the campaign to get equal voting rights, it did not just focus only on him. Instead many important characters in the film displayed their fight and struggle for this movement. It depicts the collectivity of the movement. King may have been in the spotlight, but many others played key roles in obtaining secure voting rights for all black citizens, as well as abolishing segregation in the United States.
To me what also hit the hardest was seeing this police brutality and connecting it to today’s incidents such as with Michael Brown or Trayvon Martin. Decades have passed since the Civil Rights Movement, but people are still out there fighting for their rights, especially the right to feel safe in their own country. Of course we have come a long way since the sixties and we should be proud of the progress. But that does not mean we should not critique the inequalities present in 2015. I think that Selma is a powerful, visual tool to show people what hate and racism really looks like. Again, it is one thing to read about attacks and segregation, but to see it in action evokes the strongest emotions. I have not cried more at a movie ever than I have at Selma. It broke my heart, but also warmed it to see the deeper love and strength in the movement. These people kept fighting back even though they knew they would be faced with violence. They were beaten, murdered, and made to feel like nothing. The system of America treated them this way, not just one person or a group of people. The system. But they fought on because they saw hope. They pushed on anyway, and that is what Selma shows. Even though it was one part of the Civil Rights Movement, it was powerful. History buffs, film lovers, anyone and everyone, should go see this movie. It will change the way you understand the Civil Rights Movement. I guarantee it.
You can check out the trailer here: