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Selma

by Megan Woods

Nominated for four Golden Globe awards, including Best Motion Picture in Drama, Best Director and Best Actor, as well as winning the Golden Globe award for Best Original Song at the 87th Academy Awards, Selma describes the tiring road for African American peoples’ voting rights in Alabama in 1965.

In the beginning, the movie starts with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. accepting the Nobel Peace Prize as Annie Lee Cooper; an African American woman is denied the right to vote because she cannot recite the 67 judges’ names of Alabama.

Annie Lee Cooper was one of the activists involved in the Civil Rights March to Montgomery, Alabama. In the opening scene, she is viewed writing her name, her color and her address and slowly walking up to the voter registrar.

The voting registrar looks at her, and snidely asks her to recite the preamble to the constitution, then asking her how many county judges are in the state of Alabama. In which she replies, “67.” Almost giving up, you can see the sheer happiness that he knew she wouldn’t get the last question, “Name them.”

The stamp presses against the paper, saying denied.

This conversation showed that the blacks, even though they were disadvantaged educationally, did understand the obstacles that they needed to pass in order to vote. The sheer desire to vote and the almost impossible obstacles each person had to pass to vote was not only appalling but showed what a people could do to lower classes.

Sure we see it every day in other countries, people killing or denying rights to other classes of people, but to believe that at one point that happened in our country only over half a century ago is unbelievable.

A really moving scene that opens up the high tensions of white American distaste for allowing black citizens to vote is a small conversation between four young girls walking down the stairs in Birmingham, Alabama whom are killed by a bomb set by the Ku Klux Klan. The sheer magnitude of importance was not forgotten as the camera pans out and the little girls’ bodies are shown in the rubble.

This scene was unexpectedly breathtaking because as a viewer, I was enjoying the small banter between the girls’ admiration of Coretta Scott King’s hairstyle, and the sudden explosion of the wall hitting the girls while I was watching the scene was surprising because why would someone target a church politically and racially? It was very surprising that even though the little girls’ were only involved because they were black, not because they were pushing to vote.

Lyndon B. Johnson is very reluctant to pass legislation and condone George Wallace’s actions against blacks to vote, until CBS filmed the first attempt at crossing the bridge and the assault of the protesters by the state troopers.

The sheer magnitude of the images seen and words said was very moving. Here were people just wanting the one simple right to vote that many already had and were told they had but could yet still obtain 52 years ago. The heavy use of tear gas, smoke bombs, as well as gunshots and at least 15 baton sticks raising and disappearing in the cloud of smoke and screams showed the entire country what people were doing to those in Alabama to keep the from the simple right to vote.

By bringing the fight to the cameras, it showed average people that it was not only the fault of the government, but also the fault of the individual not acting to help the ones with the right to vote in Alabama.

As the first marchers crossed the Alabama River, one of the main organizers with Martin Luther King Jr. asks a young John Lewis if he can swim, in which he replies that the black school that he went to didn’t have a swim team or any classes to learn how to.

I believed that the movie was portrayed well over all, even though I thought some of the acting was a little dry.

David Oyelowo looked similar to Martin Luther King Jr. but did not have the bellowing, attention-grabbing voice as many recordings have. I felt that he could have portrayed one of the greatest speakers in history a little bit better.

Something that made David Oyelowo’s portrayal of King stand out, however, was his conversation with Tom Wilkinson, who plays Lyndon B. Johnson. Oyelowo is soft spoken yet those watching can see that it’s a heated conversation because Wilkinson’s character has sharper, louder words. It’s the last conversation that makes Wilkinson think of the consequences for not allowing the blacks to vote.

There was so much left out about the FBI attempting to break Martin Luther King Jr. socially with Coretta Scott King that I felt that the attempted romance part was unneeded. The movie was named Selma, but that could have been separated and portrayed in a second movie.

know that the importance was to portray that the U.S. government at the time did not trust Dr. King, so the FBI recorded the calls as well as kept tabs on where Dr. King was at all times.

The final half of the movie was very well done. The use of actual footage of the march from Selma to Montgomery Alabama as well as show the main character’s faces and tell what happened as a result to the march was uplifting. I enjoyed the use of the footage used. It was the most beautiful scene. It was happy as well as safe and showed that with a little bit of cooperation and patience great things can happen.

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