The heart-breaking and encouraging story of Selma

Emma L.

Staff Writer

Selma is a story of courage and hope for persecuted people. Released on January 9th, 2015, Selma is an emotional film about the trials African Americans faced during the Civil Rights Movement, highlighting the protests, such as the march from Birmingham to Selma, in which they took part.

The way the cast played their roles and embodied their characters helped make a bigger impact on the audience and get the point of the movie across effectively. The main characters in the movie include Martin Luther King, Jr., played by David Oyelowo; Annie Lee Cooper, played by Oprah Winfrey; and Coretta Scott King, played by Carmen Ejogo, all of whom had incredible performances. When Winfrey, portraying Annie Lee Cooper, was being dragged away by the police in Selma, it was almost impossible to see her as the wealthy independent woman that she is because as she was being pulled away she seemed so broken and in so much pain that there was no way the audience could see her as someone other than Annie Lee Cooper. These actors had to connect with the audience and show the emotions they felt during these hardships the characters faced. They took these roles and portrayed them as if they were the ones who were going through the struggle of the Civil Rights Movement by embodying the characters and thinking about the pain and agony that they would have gone through if they had to live at this time; this made the movie much more believable and relevant. Junior Emma Shaw said, “Even though Oprah Winfrey is so well known, I hardly even noticed it was her by how well she played the role of Annie Lee Cooper.”  The performances given by these actors were the main reason why this movie was so successful and heart-wrenching.

Not only was Selma impacting because of the acting, but also for the general story that it told. Selma takes place after King had led the boycott of the Montgomery bus system and after he had already led the March on Washington, so it is focused more on the voting registration rights and the difficulties that Blacks faced when they actually had the option to vote. Right away the movie shows the ridiculous rules that African Americans had to follow when they went to vote like when Annie Lee Cooper, who was a well-known civil rights activist (mostly recognized for punching a Selma police sheriff during the march from Birmingham to Selma 2 ELSelma), went and had to fill out a very lengthy and difficult questionnaire that tested the mental strength of many. The movie also showed the havoc that was wreaked on Blacks at this time with all the deaths that were occurring, such as the bomb that was detonated in the bathroom of a school for colored children that ended up killing three young girls. Even though this was an act of terrorism, many Whites refused to look at it this way, and justice was not served for these girls until years later. This and many other deaths sparked the marching protest that started in Montgomery and went all the way to Selma. When the protesters reached Selma, they were met by a sheriff who allowed his men to open fire on the peaceful people. This caused a great amount of outrage among people of all colors from all over the country. This violent march, which is now call Bloody Sunday, sparked another march that was led by King that was called Turnabout Tuesday. This Tuesday was filled with people that arrived to Selma to help protest the deaths created by the police in Selma. Based on the great unrest that was created throughout the entire country because of Bloody Sunday and all of the other deaths of Blacks that occurred while peacefully protesting, the government was forced to change and create better voting rights for Blacks if they wanted to regain control of the country.

Although this movie was set fifty years in the past, it is nearly impossible to tell that it was filmed today. The set made it feel as if the characters were back in the 1960s because the cars they used were vintage, and the homes looked old. The film did not show any of the early technology, and this set really helped to sell the movie. If it had been differently portrayed as more modern, then the film would have not had the same effect. The actors also spoke as if they were from this time instead of today because they used slang that is no longer used today; because this movie was focused more in the South, there was a strong southern tone to all of the characters to help add to the slang and make the dialogue they used almost difficult to understand.

The movie was set to run through Black History Month, serving as a reminder of the growth of the country. Freshman Angela Harris said, “This was the perfect timing because it reminds everyone to reflect on history so that we can continue to move forward together as a nation.” Selma also helped shine a light on the fact that there is still a great deal of inequality and racism in our country today. This movie helped to connect the events between police brutality of the past focused on African Americans to the brutality that is still seen by many today. Junior Alex Shugart said, “Seeing this movie showed how the country needs to continue to move forward and work to create a place where all races and all genders are free and equal. It can only work this way if people from everywhere come together and work for what is right because this is the way that equality changes came about the first time.” This shows the impact this movie had even on the youth because they now see changes they think should be made in the country.

This movie was an incredible performance that was not only made to entertain the masses, but also to spark a feeling of necessity to continue the change that was started so long ago. The writers of the movie wanted to show that even though Blacks are no longer held captive in the sense of slavery and segregation, now they are being treated unfairly in ways such as racial profiling by police officers, and this can no longer stand or be seen as acceptable to Americans. This has recently been brought more to attention because celebrities such as John Legend have been speaking out, but if people come together today like they did during the time of Civil Rights, then we will be able to continue to move towards greater equality between people of all races that live in this country.

 

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