The Oscars are over and most of us have moved on to sports and spring stuff if we can. One movie seems to linger on for many reasons. It is historic and it has a woman writer and director. Her movie is Selma. It is about a town, Selma, Alabama where 50 years ago history was written in blood. Her name is Ava DuVernay who has deep family ties to the town. It was the backwoods along Selma where the Ku Klux Clan used to congregate. Martin Luther King was there and a part of the civil rights struggle took place there. The movie is a documentary filled with drama.
She says she did the movie to bring Martin King back to life. For many he is just a street name or a holiday. He is more than a stamp or just one famous speech. The movie shows the violence that much of the south was involved in in 1965. It shows how difficult it was for blacks to vote then. They had to pay a fee and take a test or be denied the right to vote. Now we have to urge people to get out and vote. No one cares much. A focus point of the movie is when protesters tried to take the voting rights issue all the way to the Capitol 50 miles away and stopped traffic to cross a major bridge in Montgomery
We have actual news footage from news reports about what happened at the foot of that bridge. We see peaceful protesters being beaten back with canes, clubs and whips, tear gas and nausea gas. The real drama was filmed and shown to all of America. In her movie she shockingly recreates the original carnage. Then and now the bridge has the name of Edmund Pettus who was a confederate general and leader of the Alabama Ku Klux Klan. Yes you would think that the fact that the bridge still honors the grand dragon of the KKK still exists would be even more disturbing!
In Hollywood eyes Ava shouldn’t have made it to being a director either. There are only 4% of films being made by women directors in Hollywood now. She is the only black woman director. Why didn’t they make more fuss about her accomplishments at the Oscars? She has been in Hollywood in the business of selling films as being a publicist for many years. She worked just out of camera range on good movies. She was part of The Help and Dream Girls arranging photo opportunities and getting the word out about those successful films. On the set of the movie Collateral starring Jaimie Fox she started thinking about being a director. She directed some small budget films called I Will Follow and Middle of Nowhere that were well liked.
That all led to her first film for a major studio called Selma. Her experience in making 5 films before this gave her the confidence to deal with a film of this large scale. She has an Aunt who is 93 years sharp and who remembers a lot of what went down in the 60’s. She remembers hearing speeches of Martin encouraging peaceful protests. So the blacks would put on their Sunday best clothes to march somewhere only to be beaten by the police who were KKK members. It didn’t make much sense to her. Even if a black passed the voting poll test then they had to pay a $100 tax which was a lot of money then.
The bridge protest was different than most. This time instead of the usual 600 brave black people showing up ready for their beating there was a crowd of 4,000 marchers from all parts of the nation. It was a historic parade of black people waving the American flag and walking to Washington. It was also a historic change in President Johnson’s views. Before in 1957 and in his first 20 years in Congress he was a supporter of the south and firmly against civil rights legislation. After the march in Selma he had a change of heart and became the biggest supporter of civil rights issues. In 1967 the film shows that Johnson pushed the Voting Rights Act through in congress. Johnson then said “and we shall overcome.” Learn some history. Watch the movie.