So I've lived in Alabama for over 30 years. I've been to Selma several times and have driven over the Edmund Pettus Bridge. I didn't live these stories, but I've heard them time and again. We here in this state are constantly pushing forward as we try to understand and overcome our state's history. Which means when I go into a movie like SELMA, I have some apprehension and also a set of expectations.
The story of the Selma to Montgomery March was in good hands here. It felt honest to me, well-rounded, complex. It surprised me and moved me.
There's were several scenes -- one scene in particular near the beginning of the movie -- that left me completely stunned. And I know this history! But for a little bit there, I wasn't breathing. So, so powerful.
I find it very difficult to watch brutality and hatred -- man's inhumanity to man. So I had to close my eyes during parts of this film. But that wasn't the only point the movie had to make.
The most important point was the human-ness of all these Civil Rights figures. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., in particular, is portrayed as a man who struggled and made mistakes and did the best he could, just like any decent human. I appreciated the scene of him bagging the kitchen trash as much as the powerhouse speeches from the pulpit. It says to me that anyone who believes in something enough to never give up can achieve his or her dreams.
And wow, great casting.
Incidentally, the suffrage issue came up time and again in my Gee's Bend research -- the ferry was closed down for years as a way to prevent Gee's Bend residents from getting to Camden to vote. (Gee's Bend is only about 45 miles from Selma.) I just said this last week in my look at BIG EYES, and it's true here as well: we've come a long way, baby.