In honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, we’re taking a look at the biopic Selma.
As a 30-year-old white man, there have been many times where I have been proud to live in this country, and there have been many times where I have been ashamed to be an American. We have done horrible things as we have grown as a country. Our foundation is caked in the blood of Native Americans, black slaves, and millions of people of color whose lives were taken for things that meant less than value of their souls. We have tried to hide the truth of our past, glance over the horrific things we have done, and hold high the few wins that people of color have achieved as if to say, “See, we did something good!” But we have done too much wrong, and because of that, our hands will never be clean of the blood we’ve spilled to create this nation.
By the grace of god, there have been people who have fought against the tyranny of white America and have stood up to make a difference and cause real change in this country. One of the greatest was Martin Luther King, Jr. His work during the Civil Rights Movement helped change our country not only be tearing apart segregation, but by showing the entire country and the entire world what was happening. His leadership brought cameras to the battlefront, and in doing so, shone a light on those who would commit unspeakable acts towards people of color. News stations began to broadcast the violence that white people committed against people of color. The world could see what horrors we had committed, and we could not hide from the truth.
Selma, the biopic of Martin Luther King, Jr. from director Ava DuVernay, is a reminder of how much times haven’t truly changed. When it was released in 2014, things weren’t broadcast as wide as they are today. We didn’t hear stories every day about these injustices unless we sought them out. But six years later, we hear about them every day thanks to social media and better awareness. Yet awareness isn’t enough. It is important to be informed, but it is even more important to act out against the injustices we see in this world, to protest against hatred and bigotry, and to do everything within our power to fight those who would seek to harm anyone different from them.
Selma is a beautiful and important film that asks us to remember who King truly was and what he stood for. He knew the weight of his fight and what horrors it could bring if they continued. But he kept going in any way he could, so that all people could be treated equally. Sometimes he was forced to back down, to turn back in the middle of a march, in order to save lives. But that didn’t mean the fight was over. It simply meant the battle had changed structure. Selma showed us that King knew how to pick his battles and fight smart in order to win the war. The problem is the war he was fighting never truly ended.
There are plenty of beautiful and amazing things within Selma. The way DuVernay shoots the film, specifically her closeups and over-the-shoulders, pulls you in and makes you feel as though you’re in the room as things are happening. It feels intimate, as if you are truly immersed in the world of this film and the history of these events. She brought amazing performances out of every member of the cast; even the actors with a minute or less of screen time mean something and remain memorable. Every single bit of this film and its structure works beautifully, and it’s honestly one of the best films of the past 10 or 20 years.
This is a film that should be viewed by all. It should be shown in schools across our country. It should be talked about and used as a lesson to all of us. Not just as some small insight into who Martin Luther King, Jr. was, but as a window into how we have refused to change over time. This film is a harsh reminder that we still have work to be done. Maybe that wasn’t the point of it in 2014 and was never meant to be that, but today in 2020, that’s what it is: a reminder that we have failed Dr. King because we have done little to continue his dream. We have held up our small accomplishments, but we are not holding up our black brothers and sisters; that needs to change.
Selma is currently available on DVD, Blu-Ray and Digital Here.
Written by Alex Lancaster
(Alex is a life long film fan, and has dedicated his life to watching, making and obsessing over films. His favorite film is Big Fish, and he despises Avatar. He has a 5 year old son. And a bad habit of saying more than he needs to. Follow @alex5348 on Twitter)