Ava DuVernay’s Selma begins with a bang. Literally. Its opening moments seamlessly switch between scenes of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. receiving the Nobel Peace Prize and a brutal bombing which left four little girls dead. The juxtaposition is jarring, and the finesse with which it is handled immediately lets viewers know that this is a film which is unflinching and unapologetic. And that is the best kind of movie.
When Selma was released at the end of 2014, it was immediately showered with critical acclaim. The good news is that it absolutely lives up to the hype. Instead of focusing on the entirety of Dr. King’s life and career, Selma focuses on a very specific period in the Civil Rights Movement—the 1965 marches from Selma to Montgomery. Do not let the boring history lecture flashbacks associated with those time periods fool you—this was an epic battle. The source of Selma’s strength is that it, like any good action movie, allows the gravity of the situation permeate with each scene. There are no dull moments. Viewers are literally kept on the edge of their seats as they watch the historic, tragic, unforgettable events unfold.
Selma is greatly indebted to the incredible skill of its actors. Each member of the cast delivers such authentic performances that they help you realize that individuals who were involved in the Civil Rights struggle were not larger-than-life icons, but ordinary people who found the courage to stand up and demand justice. In this way, Selma allows the raw humanity of the Movement to shine through.
This humanity is important to remember. The story of Selma finds us from Selma, Alabama, 1965 to Ferguson, Missouri, 2014. One cannot watch this film without thinking of the protests which enveloped the nation last year; where thousands rallied under the cries of #BlackLivesMatter, calling for an end to police brutality particularly toward African American or minority communities. The beauty of Selma is that it shows how with bravery, diligence, nonviolent action, and courage, a change can be made. We must not rest on the progress of the past, but use the example of those gone before to continue to fight for justice for all.
Selma is currently playing in theaters nationwide.