From the first moments I saw the trailer I knew this was going to be a great film. I didn’t realize how emotional it would be though. My eyes have been misty for nearly the entire duration. This is perhaps the most emotional film I can recall.
Selma is one of the truly greatest stories in all of American history. Still relevant, still powerful, it has a moral clarity and heroism beyond description. The history, even this version, should be required learning and a part of the curriculum in schools.
Director Ava DuVernay is unflinching in her recreation of the events, and the performances are so powerful that often the camera just sits perfectly still, letting the drama unfold without the need for any kind of embellishment. The film was nominated for Best Picture, losing to Birdman, but both films are compulsory.
At the core of this struggle is the right to vote. It’s painful listening to the modern ignorant preaching how we shouldn’t bother to vote at all, when those people should be sat down to simply watch. Rights are taken for granted, and it amounts to political malfeasance virulently spreading these knee-jerk, incompetent ideas. While voting may not achieve much these days, try having it stripped away, and see where you end up.
There are villains, nasty, racist terrorists in fact. The Civil Rights Movement was a struggle against terrorism first and foremost. Beyond the tactics in the streets the entrenched interests maintained the system of unequal treatment in law and through economic means. Barrier after barrier kept the black race down and empowered the racists to use illegitimate means of control.
And Hoover, the nastiest, creepiest thug of them all, makes an early appearance. DuVernay shows us a series of FBI reports on Dr. King as events unfold. The covert harassment of his family, the threats and the hidden workings of the state show the complexities of his struggle. King was hounded and bitten throughout, and the film keeps the pressure high, even as it opens with him receiving the Nobel Prize.
As I said, it’s required viewing, a tear-jerker, and one of the most powerful American stories in our nation’s history. Of course you need to rent it.