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'Selma' stirs emotions

Published:Thursday | February 26, 2015 | 7:08 PMSadeke Brooks
David Oyelowo (left) plays Martin Luther King, Jr. and Carmen Ejogo plays Coretta Scott King in Selma.

The wine and hors d'oeuvres that were served prior to the start of the movie Selma were certainly the calm before the onset of intensity that could be felt throughout the movie.

The movie premiere was held last Tuesday at Carib 5 in St Andrew by the Rex Nettleford Foundation and sponsored by Proven Investments Limited. Prior to the start of the movie, guests, including the likes of former prime ministers, P.J. Patterson and Edward Seaga, greeted each other while sipping on wine.

When guests were seated inside the theatre, there were brief messages from a Proven representative, as well as Patterson, who is a director at the foundation.

"I think it is extremely and uniquely suited as we celebrate the memory of the late great Rex Nettleford," Patterson said.

Those in attendance were calm and attentive as he spoke, and were not concerned that the movie had not yet started. And when it did begin, eyes were glued to the screen for the movie that highlights racism in the United States in the 1960s.

The movie begins on a peaceful note in 1964, when Dr Martin Luther King Jr accepts his Nobel Peace Prize. The scene to follow was also serene, as four African-American girls are engaged in a very funny discussion. Then, out of nowhere, there is a frightening explosion and the girls are then seen covered in the rubble that resulted from the explosion.

That violent scene is followed by Annie Lee Cooper, played by Oprah Winfrey, who tries to register to vote in Alabama, but is prevented from doing so by the Caucasian registrar.

In comes King and other activists, who decide to tackle the voting issue in Selma, Alabama, where racism was in its prime. King, then sees the racism first-hand when he enters a white-only establishment and is punched in the face by a white man.


peaceful protest


The first order of business in his campaign, to get blacks registered to vote, is a peaceful protest. But things soon turn violent as King and his group march to the courthouse to get registered as voters. Some of the protesters have to endure physical abuse before being locked up by the police.

This was tame compared with what was to come. In the next march from Selma to Montgomery, things were not as pretty when the peaceful protesters went on to the Edmund Pettus Bridge. There, they were brutalised by police while the whites looked on, some even cheering. As police wielded batons wrapped with barbed wire, there were many tear-jerking moments. It was a struggle among theatre-goers to contain the emotions fuelled by the actions on screen.

As the movie continued, the relationship between King and then US president, Lyndon B. Johnson, is explored. The movie also delved into his marriage with Coretta Scott King, showing his flaws as a human being and a few contradictory practices. His wife's fears were also looked at, as she was terrified that he would one day die in an untimely manner, leaving her and their children.

But the sounds and imagery in the movie are true to life and give a somewhat accurate emotion-stirring depiction of what occurred on the streets of Alabama in 1965, with gripping performances from the cast.

While it was a movie based on history, Selma was able to tell the story in an intense way without appearing to be a documentary.