SELMA is Not Just Brilliant But Right On Time
I was invited to a private screening of the SELMA movie by Paramount Pictures and Ava DuVernay in New York in November and I didn’t just cry during the film. I wept. I ugly-cried like I wasn’t sitting in a room with 40 other people. But everyone else was in tears too so I let it flow (word to Toni). I didn’t have any tissues with me so I used my pashmina to dry my face. It was soaked by the end.
I knew it’d be an emotional movie but I didn’t think it would dropkick me in the chest throughout like it did. I’ve cried during scenes of movies but I’ve never cried throughout most of a movie like I did during this one.
As I watched this movie about events from 1965, I was so hurt that we’re still fighting for the right to live in 2014. My feelings were in the gutter because people are still marching today for basic rights. The fighters who came before us probably didn’t think they were fighting so we wouldn’t have to.
Directed by Ava DuVernay, SELMA is a snapshot of the events that happened in the three months of 1965 that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was in Alabama trying to get Black people the right to vote. It chronicles the things that happened leading to the historic march from Selma to Montgomery, which led to President Lyndon B. Johnson signing the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
SELMA is not about MLK the hero; it’s about the movement. It humanizes him and brings him down from demigod status, showing that he was a flawed visionary who needed to be picked up even as he fought because he got tired. He was backed, advised and counseled every step of the way by men like Ralph Abernathy, Bayard Rustin, James Orange. They shared struggles, meals and even jail cells with Dr. King. Women are typically completely erased from the story too, but this film acknowledges the roles of Amelia Boynton, Diane Nash, Mahalia Jackson and Viola Liuzzo.
MLK was a man at the front of a movement but he was not THE movement, because nobody was. The Civil Rights Movement was collective-driven, and SELMA gives that much-needed credit.
I loved SELMA from start to finish and I loved that it was so thoughtful. That’s because Ava’s always handles her work with care. From the casting to the story to the speeches to the look, SELMA is brilliance personified. Stories involving MLK have been told in 1,000 different ways and this has been my favorite yet. That credit also goes to David Oyelowo, who was amazing as the revered leader.
The British-Nigerian Oyelowo nailed the icon’s voice and cadence, which is no small feat to do (so he is now elevated to bae status in my book). He is a phenomenal actor and every nomination he’s received for this film was well-earned. He even gained weight to fit into MLK’s shoes (and suit).
This movie was truly about teamwork because the supporting cast is just as great. I was SO impressed by Carmen Ejogo’s portrayal as Coretta Scott King. Not only did she look exactly like her, but she brought some fervor to her part that seemed fitting. Being the wife of Dr. King meant living in constant fear and the scenes between Carmen and David were so good!
There are some heavy hitters in this film, like Wendell Pierce and legendary Lorraine Toussaint, who played Amelia Boynton. She is an actor’s actor and she ALWAYS brings it. We met at the screening and chatted for a while and she’s officially BFF in my head. When you meet someone who you’ve admired from afar for years and not only is she gracious but she is grounded, you can’t help but love them even more. We totally go together now.
At the screening, after the movie ended, Ava got in front of the room with a handful of the cast and crew of SELMA. She gave profuse thanks and credit to the people who committed to tell this story with her and that was uber dope. It was consistent with the collective spirit of this movie. One of the men who worked on the film stood next to her and told us “I’ve worked on 40 movies. But I feel like this was my first FILM.” Such high praise. Salute.
SELMA is well made, it’s deliberate and although it’s about then, it is for now. This film feels right because it comes at a time where we need what it is telling. As another Black man is killed by police (last night, it was Antonio Martin), and people are taking to the streets to say “no justice, no peace” and “hands up, don’t shoot,” SELMA is being released. Black bodies are still being devalued. STILL. ALREADY. AGAIN. This film reminds us that what we’re up against isn’t new and the fight isn’t either. But we can make strides. We have to #MarchOn. From Selma to Ferguson.
There are scenes in this film that made me gasp out loud and I winced so many times. It did not shy away from making us watch violence because it’s important that we see what racism and hate did and does. It hurts. It wounds. It kills. This is why we’re still marching. State-sanctioned hate is still killing us every 28 hours.
I’m so glad this movie exists. I’m so glad a Black woman is behind it. And I’m so glad it’s on time. Ava DuVernay (who is #ForeverBae. I love she) and her team (including producer Oprah Winfrey) did something amazing and special with the oft-told story of MLK with SELMA and it is a MUST SEE. I was enraged yet inspired and pissed yet hopeful. I was moved.
SELMA is out in limited theaters in NYC, LA, Atlanta and DC on Christmas Day. And it opens everywhere on January 9, 2015. View the trailer. Also, follow the SELMA movie on Twitter and Facebook.
There is a screening for SELMA happening in Chicago on January 6 at 7pm and I have 10 pairs of tickets to give away to my readers. To be eligible to win, you have to leave a comment with the name of a Black American Civil Rights leader who is NOT named here, and not named Malcolm X (he makes an appearance in the film too, BTW).
I will pick winners by Friday, December 26, 2014 and send them an email to let them know, with next steps.
Read: Stages of What Happens When There’s Injustice Against Black People
How does Selma not include unsung she-ro ELLA BAKER???
SNCC is mentioned in the film but again, it’s a snapshot, not a story of the entire movement. But SHOUTOUT to Ella Baker. Loved reading her autobiography in college.
I’m not disappointed. I am, however, still waiting for the movie about my great grandmother, Susie McDonald, and her girlfriends, Claudette Colvin, Aurelia Browder, and Mary Smith.
It would be hilarious to me if they titled the film “No, Rosa Parks Was The OTHER One,” but I know that that’s not deep enough for Oscar bait.
Colvin is my birthday twin. Fierce Four -eyed Fighters FTW!
Are there any props to FANNIE LOU HAMER? (That’s my entry, btw)
Can’t wait to see it! I’m sure David Oyelowo and Oprah were amazing!
you not going to be disappointed . i just saw it today
Was James Farmer mentioned?
Diane Nash is DEFINITELY an Unsung Hero!
Diane Nash is in the film and mentioned here.
Reading IS fundamental and my other ones are taken!
Dorothy Height was a BOSS.
James farmer….but you only need one. Lol
I think someone we should all know more about is Jo Ann Robinson. I would love to come see Selma in Chicago!
John Lewis (you didn’t mention him) was an influential leader within SNCC. I CANNOT WAIT to see this movie!!!
A. Phillip Randolph
I have had the pleasure of meeting and spending some time with Shirley Chisolm who encouraged me to learn more about myself and history.
I lived through that period. I would come out of there fighting and singing “don’t you know we have to kill the white people” (use
Bob Marley accent).
James Luther Bevel
i know this is before SNCC but it would have been great to see some stokley carmichael.
Herman Russell was a quiet supporter of MLK, working behind the scenes at his request. I learned about him from his memoir, published just before his recent passing. I hope he is remembered for the service he did.
Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth, John Lewis – I’d love go to the screening but alas I live in Pittsburgh. Please let me know if I’m correct. Hope your holidays and new year are blessed with abundance. Namaste. Pax
Ella Baker or Bob Moses or John Lewis or Rev James Lawson or Fannie Lou Hamer
I can not wait to see this movie!! Great write-up
Claude William Black, Jr.
He was based in Texas but was there when LBJ signed the voting rights act. ..does the movie mention him at all?
Thanks for the recap Luvvie!
I can’t wait to see the movie! I remember where and what I was doing when the news crawl came on the bottom of the TV screen. I told my parents and they both started to cry, I barely knew who he was. .and kept asking why are you crying? Did you know him? I was 11 at the time, but had been in the country for only about 5 years. And the show I was watching? I Love Lucy, the one where Superman comes to little Ricky’s birthday party. The things that stick in your head.
Anyway, I will mention Ralph Bunche and Nelson Mandela. Sorry for the long post!
Kwame Nkrumah would have been good. 🙂
Bernice Johnson Reagon.
Just in case I don’t win, can you post where it will be shown, Luvvie?
Ida B. Wells!
P.S. Cannot wait to see this film. I’ll make sure to have my tissues ready.
Robert Taylor. Based on the reputation of the public housing named after him in Chicago, people seem to forget he was the leading figure in the fight for equal housing opportunities.
My entry is for Porsha’s Grand Pappy,Hosea Williams.
Dick Gregory and Fred Hampton. Those are two of my favorites.
How about Ezell Blair, Franklin McCain, Joseph McNeil, and David Richmond? These college students were brave!
Somebody went to A&T! Aggie Pride!
Was Gloria Richardson in the film?
Okay someone else already mentioned her & the other women I would have mentioned so let’s say Medgar Evers.
Charles Hamilton Houston – the architect for the legal strategy as to how to dismantle Jim Crow in the courts, and went about training a cadre of lawyers to do just that.
There were so many heroes but it would be appropriate to focus on the influence and role of Dorothy Height for decades to help launch change and implement it internationally and on a grass roots level for decades.
This movie was awesome!!!
[…] Thank you to writer and activist Luvvie Ayaji, aka Awesomely Luvvie, for joining us via Skype afterwards to help decompress after the film. I totally went for a hail mary pass thinking I wonder if I reach out to Luvvie, even though she does not know me from Adam, would she respond and do the Q&A? And respond she did. I felt a little stunned! When I got that ‘yes’ reply back from Luvvie, I did ALL the happy dances. Please check out her take on the film as well. […]