Film: Selma

"What happens when a man stands up, says 'enough is enough'?"
Martin Luther King, Jr

Selma is a 2014 film co-written and directed by Ava DuVernay. The film depicts the 1965 marches from Selma to Montgomery in support of the Voting Rights Act. David Oyelowo stars as Martin Luther King, Jr., alongside Carmen Ejogo as Coretta Scott King, Tom Wilkinson as Lyndon Johnson, and a whole lot of other talented actors playing other historical figures. The movie marks the first major motion picture where MLK plays a central role.

The film was given a limited release on Christmas 2014 before expanding on January 9. The trailer can be see here.

This Film Provides Examples Of:

  • Armor-Piercing Question: From Coretta Scott King, after her husband says he loves her: "Do you love any of the others?"
  • Beware the Nice Ones: While Annie Lee Cooper had been depicted as quiet and soft-spoken, withholding her frustrations over denied her voting applications, she is enraged at the sight of Cager Lee being bullied by Sheriff Clark and punches him.
  • Civil Rights Movement: The film is set in the era when the Movement was in full swing.
  • Double Standard: One of King's complaints about LBJ is that he phoned his condolences to the wife of a white minister who was murdered by racist thugs, while not doing the same to the mother of an unarmed black youth shot and killed by Alabama state troopers through excessive force.
  • Eye For An Eye: After the first Selma march is attacked, a hothead wants to start shooting quoting the Bible for this trope. However, one of the leaders talks him out of it with some hard facts how all that would be accomplished is an excuse for a massacre.
  • Foil: Wallace is one for King. Both leaders give rallying speeches to their supporters, make demands of President Johnson, and are absolutely unyielding in their beliefs. How they both died would've even been similar if Wallace didn't survive his assassination attempt.
  • Good Cop/Bad Cop: Malcolm X comes to Coretta King offering to play this role so Martin's demands would feel all the more reasonable. Coretta takes some persuading and Martin, who didn't care for the Black Nationalist calling him an "Uncle Tom," takes even more convincing.
  • Historical Villain Upgrade: Lyndon B. Johnson is depicted as an obstructionist to King when in reality he supported the Civil Rights Movement and viewed King as an essential partner in getting the Voting Rights Act enacted. He does relent by the end and is more or less depicted as a complicated politician.
  • Hope Spot: Jimmie Lee Jackson manages to take his wife and father-in-law to refuge into a cafe where they blend in as customers. Then the police storm in...
  • Infant Immortality: Averted in the first five minutes when a bomb goes off in a church, killing four little girls.
  • Police Brutality: Jim Crow police forces are in full swing, literally. With their billy clubs, tear gas, and whips they attack defenseless protesters and murder a young black Army veteran trying to protect his father. Some in the Movement accuse King of knowingly counting on the police brutalizing their followers to gain national sympathy, which is partly true. King ends up canceling the second march to Montgomery halfway through because he can't bare to let the police beat and murder innocent lives when he suspects a trap is being laid.
  • Warts and All: The film does not hide that King had feet of clay, such as his affairs. The FBI tries to wreck his home life exposing that to his wife and they have a very tense time confronting it.
  • Wham Shot: On the second march across the bridge, Martin and his followers kneel down in prayer when the police battalion permits them (possibly dubiously) to pass. Then, he stands up, and turns back.
  • Writing Around Trademarks: Ava DuVernay had to rewrite some of King's speeches, since she didn't have permission from the King estate to use the originals.