I just saw the movie ‘Selma,’ and I was really impressed.
The violence was quite hard to bear.
The state brutality inflicted upon the peaceful protestors was portrayed in a manner that was certainly graphic; but never tasteless, shallow, or sensationalist.
There was good use of suspense and pauses.
Anxious but firmly resolute protesters, standing firm before the white establishment opened the gates of hell.
Arms of all kinds brandished at the ready; including, in one particularly disturbing part, a weapon wrapped in barbed wire, in order to shred the skin of innocent (but fortunately, not so innocent!) heroes and heroines of the civil rights movement.
Aside from such ‘scenic’ concerns, the characterization was truly superb. For one thing, I was glad there was no ‘whitewash’ of Lyndon Johnson, who came across to me as a man at least marginally sympathetic to the protestors, but actually ruthlessly pragmatic on the whole; and guided more by expediency than by lilywhite, unadulterated principle.
For example, in private conversation with explicitly crude and brutal white racist George Wallace, governor of Alabama, Johnson dropped a few ‘n words,’ which didn’t look at all tactical to me. And his exasperation with and even outright dismissiveness towards Dr King emphasized quite clearly the ‘privileged expediency,’ if you will, of white progressives past and present.
As others have pointed out in various reviews, the movie didn’t touch explicitly on certain ‘sore points,’ certain foreign policy and economic matters, that might have harmed the universality of appeal of the movie. (Some might say the universality of appeal and, in turn, the commercial success?)
However, the movie was full of character, integrity, warmth, and human frailty, fallibility.
And the courage of those who know well that the man who knoweth not to bow, shall never stand aright.
This being so, I respect the fact that some people will see this as a largely commercial venture. But to me, the radiance and ‘cool blaze’ of the film doesn’t savor of rank money-grubbing cynicism alone.
And to judge by the authenticity and integrity of the characterization, it is abundantly clear that many of the individuals involved in the making of the movie were as carried away as I, a spectator.
Before today, this movie was scrawled in letters of ink.
But from today ever onwards, it is carved in letters of blood.
My heart’s desire would be to take every history book that ever was, and commit it to the flames.
This, I cannot do.
But for those who have eyes to see, and ears to hear, the Isaiah of Alabama still dares speak today: not with the rushing of a mighty whirlwind, but with the still small voice; flittery, fluttery, elusive as the frost on cobwebs, but with this firmness and that very same upstandwardness that shall last longer than Heaven and Earth themselves.
Then, do you hear his voice.