“Selma” doesn’t shy away from brutality in historical representation

In 1965, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. led a group of an estimated 3,200 black and white American citizens on a historical march from Selma, Ala., to Montgomery, Ala., in protest of the restrictions on black American voters. Director Ava DuVernay takes this memorable story to the big screen in the first ever theatrically released biopic of King, “Selma.”

“Selma” starts off with King, played by David Oyelowo, receiving the Nobel Peace Prize, supposedly signifying that segregation would no longer be a problem. Though the fight for desegregation was supposed to end after the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the right to vote was still withheld from black American citizens in the town of Selma, Ala. Not only did this restriction violate law, but it violated their right to a voice in the country.

King knew the way to make the voices of the black population in Selma heard was to drive the journalists and cameramen to the heart of the city and force them to recognize the inequality among blacks and whites. Without the help of the media, no one would ever know what was truly occurring in Selma.

King was adamant about keeping the peace in his fight against segregation. He knew the adversary’s advantages and did not have the resources or the manpower to change the face of history with wooden sticks and bullets. There had to be a way around the violence that would still invoke a change in the lives of African-Americans. This way, he found, was to march 54 miles from Selma to the state’s capital, Montgomery.

As the film depicts the first march over the bridge, tensions rise as the state troopers attack the incoming protestors. Innocent men and women are brutally bruised and bloodied for assembling in a silent protest. This film not only portrays the graphic beatings of black Americans but also credits their innocence as they did not raise arms against the troopers. The men and women did not fight against but rather faced the anger of the antagonists in hopes of establishing a better future. Although the horrific scene was brutal to witness, the film shows how this first march served as a pivotal moment for the Civil Rights Movement as people around the country watched on their television screens the injustice suffered by black Americans.

After the first attempted march, the people of Selma knew there was more to be done. King issued a national request for people of all races from all over the country to help fight the prejudice occurring in Alabama. “Selma” portrays the preparation for the next march, which included the arrival of white citizens from as far as Boston, Mass. Tragically, some of those who traveled to Selma did not return home. After being noticed at the second attempted march, the new visitors were no longer safe from the opposition. “Selma” represents how a white American stood for King’s cause and was viciously killed in the streets, showing that inequality did not only face differences in race but also the opinions of all people.

Though King and his supporters underwent unfathomable torments, the time came when they could finally, safely cross the Edmund Pettus Bridge and successful march to Montgomery. This victorious act sparked inspiration and hope in the lives of those who were fighting a battle for far too long.

“Selma” depicts the heart-wrenching events that occurred during this time in a manner that is sure to bring apprehension and tears. The film’s cast — comprised of Oyelowo, Carmen Ejogo, Tom Wilkinson, Oprah Winfrey and Cuba Gooding Jr. — succeeded in turning this unforgettable story into a whirlwind of emotions marking one of the most triumphant moments in history.

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