As the title implies, this movie focuses on one event in Martin Luther King’s life. The oppression black people faced in Selma, Alabama. The goal was simple: enable black people to vote. Such a right was legal, but additional restrictions could be put in place that would prevent blacks from registering to vote. The movie does a great job of explaining to you how impossible this simple task of registering was. And with only white people voting, whites who murdered or maimed black people could do so without punishment.
Using the media as witnesses, MLK would “peacefully” antagonize the prejudice white people into publicly attacking the black people. The blacks would not fight back. Hence, images of these black people being murdered and maimed would then spread across America. The plan worked great in towns were there were hotheaded white people who had no problem beating a black man. The movie even mentioned that MLK’s strategy failed in some towns, where the sheriff would peacefully cart off the protesters. I personally found that funny.
Selma was a town with a hotheaded sheriff. So MLK went there and the peaceful protests began. The movie would go from a scene of advocates and politicians rambling speeches, to a bloody scene of black people being beaten or murdered. The result was jarring. I’m nodding off, half asleep as MLK gives a speech, then bam, bunch of kids getting blown up is flashed in my face.
The white people are shown to be monsters as a whole. This is exaggerated by the fact in the beating scenes, their faces are not shown, but every black person’s face is. You follow a few people in particular, so when they die you’ll be extra touched.
A few not well-known facts are brought to light as well. The most shocking to me was the fact MLK cheated on his wife. In fact, most of the preachers he traveled with did. MLK was very charismatic and his popularity made his ease of access to women very easy. Looking at history though, most religious leaders have this quality. MLK just wasn’t able to hide it as well as most because the FBI had surveillance on him.
His adulterous deeds were downplayed and made a subtle part of the movie. It was done very artfully and did not demonize him at all.
I went to this movie hoping to learn a bit about history. And I did. But the greatest learning point for me was how effective protesting can be. MLK’s movements acquired his goal. The protests I see today are silly in comparison. People standing outside with signs saying, “support our troops” or “end the war”. Those people are accomplishing nothing. The protests in this movie have a set goal and they accomplish it.
If all the so called activists and protestors of today would go see this movie, THEY would learn a great deal.
Sadly, I predict this movie flopping. After watching it, I have no idea who the target audience is. It’s filmed well though. But the mix of monologues and horror just wasn’t appealing to me.