I’ll admit it. When I first heard about Selma, I said to myself, oh another movie about race, what else is new this year? I was getting frustrated because I was starting to feel that the only way black voices could be heard in Hollywood was through a film about slavery or civil rights movements. Where were our rom-coms and sci-fi thrillers? And no, Madea Goes to Jail Part 10 does not count…
I wanted a movie that included us as characters just living in the real world without race being an integral part of the main plot line. You know like Living Single or Love Jones. But after 2014 with Ferguson and the haunting last words “I can’t breathe” I realized something. America still needs to talk about race, and America needs this film more than ever. Director Ava DuVernay knew what she was doing.
Yes, this film is a story about the struggle of black Americans in the 60s, but it’s also about the struggle of America as a people. The issue of brainwashing generations into thinking that a difference in skin tone made one superior affected everyone not just white people. There’s a part in the film when Martin is sitting in a jail cell, tired but not broken. He says that even if they are able to vote one day what does he do about the blacks that have bought into the lie that they’re inferior? How does he break the cycle? Unfortunately it’s something I still notice, so much of our bondage as a people is phycological. Some of us constantly tell ourselves we can’t do it because we’re not good enough, and yet we are. Our culture and history are both so deeply rooted and strong. Martin knew this would be difficult at times for us to remember and his hopes were that we’d be able to take the blinders off and see the world for what it really is, a land of opportunity.
The film was filled with powerful moments and speeches that took my breath away, making me fall in love with the power of words all over again. How crazy is it that Dr. King changed the world so much simply by the way he DIDN’T react to hatred, evil and violence? Powerful lesson there.
Let me not go without applauding filmmaker Ava DuVernay for displaying her amazing talent as a director and story teller. I remember the first piece I saw from her, The Door. I was in awe at the attention to detail, the beautiful way in which she framed the shots, everything was like a painting. Her passion is the same in Selma, the way she made sure every frame moved the story forward was flawless. The Bloody Sunday scene was especially haunting, but poetic too. Like this old Francesco Hayez painting from the 1800s. Eerily calm and chaotic at the same time. The “Fog of death”, temporally suffocating the hope.
This was such an emotional ride for me. Anger, hate, forgiveness and love. So many different feelings I had to sort out. Sitting there watching the credits role I silently thanked Ava for Selma. Thanked her for believing in this story enough to see it through to the end. I hope the rest of America will thank her too.