Just returned from seeing "Selma." AARP gives us old folks free tickets from time to time. I couldn't imagine that they would put Selma on their roster but they did.
What did I think when I wasn't weeping? But the older you get the more emotional you get. For me, and no doubt for many in the theater, it was incredibly emotion provoking.
Right near the beginning a couple of SNCC guys are talking about how Martin came to Albany, got everyone excited and marching, then left hundreds in jail, was mysteriously bailed after pledging to stay in jail until the trial, and never returned. (they don't talk about his bailing but they talk about the rest of it.) It was his first loss, but because it didn't get national headlines as it was early in his rise to fame no one ever talks about this — but the movie did and that impressed me.
This is a great truth no one ever wanted to talk about and there were other truths which are not talked about back then other than in Movement circles. SNCC referred to him as "De Lawd". C.B. King had a great story about visiting Martin in jail and he was resplendent in his blue silk pajamas so it wasn't like he didn't have feet of clay, but bottom line he was an incredible person.
One thing wonderfully portrayed is his sticking it in LBJ's eye, no compromise and a beautiful speech about it. And I was personally gratified that they never mentioned that little scumbag Bobby Kennedy. Don't get me started on that one.
A problem for me is that I knew Diane Nash (Bevel)and her husband Jim Bevel and John Doar and so many other characters. And I knew the whole SCLC crew and the SNCC folks, so the looks of those actors are a little off-putting. But that was my problem, one few movie goers will feel.
Now the guy playing Dr. King was terrific and the fact that he was not a mirror image of Dr. King was not a problem for me. As you watch, HE IS Dr. King. Do you know that all those great resounding speeches by Dr. King are NOT his (King's) words. The King siblings, who make a ton of money from his image and words and who fight viciously about everything (except this) would not give permission so the speeches were created by the writers, but unless you knew this fact you would believe every word was spoken by Martin.
Also Malcolm has a tiny role but again very accurate.
There are some historical inaccuracies like Laurie Pritchett, instead of referring to him as the Chief of Police of Albany, they make him the Sheriff. But who besides me, a handful of SNCC folks still alive, and the surviving Movement folks of Albany, would hear that line and sit up straight. But it is important to note that none of the above takes anything away from the fact that it is a terribly moving and pretty damn accurate film.
Here is the best testament to the film. At the end there was not that much applause which seemed weird until virtually everyone in the audience sat without moving, not only through the general credits, the actors, and the best boy and all that stuff but all the way to the end where they run those little bits about what movie companies were involved with their logos. And then I realized why so little applause. People were stunned, burned to a crisp, could not get up out of those seats and go home. And there were a lot of old folks (I mean it is put on by AARP) so I would guess quite a few were involved or at least lived through the period.
Don't take what sounds like negativism as a put down of the film. It is just if you were there your eye picks up little jarring notes here and there, kind of a Movement "proof reader"
Right now I am emotionally spent, want to eat dinner and go to bed far earlier than I have gone in months (other than New Years Eve).
Copyright © Dennis Roberts
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