1. It’s not a biographical filmSelma, which stars David Oyelowo as Martin Luther King Jr. and Carmen Ejogo as Coretta Scott King, has received mostly positive press from the critics. The film focuses on the famous “Selma” marches of the 1960s, which were not only a monumental time for the progress of Civil Rights but a devastating time due to the violent response by government officials to many of the marches and protests. The following are 3 things to know about the film—and the history behind it—before watching.
Although the film does heavily feature Martin Luther King Jr., it is not a biographical film about him. The film is about the marches and the protests, which King was heavily involved in–but he was not the only person involved. The film covers various other leaders and people involved in the protests, government officials—including high ranking officials—and their involvement and Reponses, as well as people who were seriously injured or even killed during the protests.
2. The depiction of violence in the film is not meant to shock
The film covers some of the most brutal moments in Civil Rights history—including the bombing of the 16th Street Baptist church, the murder of Jimmie Lee Jackson, and the excessive brutality used by police and authorized by the government on the marchers and protestors. The director opted for a slightly more stylized depiction of violence, rather than more a blunter and “shocking” depiction. For example, many of the film’s violent scenes make use of slow motion and reaction shots, rather than showing audiences the immediate brutality; this style is meant to focus more on the audience’s empathy for the people affected, rather than on showing the full force of what happened to them.
The film’s decision to include moments of levity—such as an ordinary dinner party hosted by King, his wife and several of his friends—is another way that the director evoked empathy for the characters, by reminding audiences of their humanity.
3. The cast includes many excellent actors
The film boasts an expansive and very talented cast, which includes David Oyelowo as King; Lorraine Toussaint as Amelia Boynton; Tim Roth as Governor George Wallace; Keith Stanfield as Jimmie Lee Jackson; Tessa Thompson as Diane Nash; Ledisi Young as Mahalia Jackson; and even Oprah Winfrey in a small but memorable role. Hop over here to look at other entertainment choices.