There's always at least one movie a year, usually one poised to receive major awards recognition, that becomes the subject of critical debate (often referred to as a "smear campaign" on social media). This year's it's SELMA. I admit, I've only been half paying attention to the online discussion that raises questions about the accuracy of the film, and how it makes former President Lyndon B. Johnson look, but I do find it fascinating how many use film as a teaching tool for history -- even though one of film's main objectives is to be entertaining (which often involves dramatization).
On a similar note, Dr. Alveda King, civil rights activist and niece of Martin Luther King Jr., recently watched SELMA and, while she praised the film overall, she did point out some of the film's historical inaccuracy and the scarceness in representation of other key members of the movement in Alabama -- including her own father, the late civil rights activist Reverend A.D. King. Read her full response below:
"An invitation to a pre-release screening of the movie SELMA brought mixed emotions to my heart, and tears to my eyes. As I sat in the theater, I was transported back to the time when my Uncle MLK, my Daddy AD King and so many civil rights icons were embroiled in the historical crosshairs that brought equity to the voting rights of Blacks in America. It was during that same season that Daddy's and Mother's church parsonage was bombed in Birmingham; and the little girls, one a classmate of mine were killed in the bombing of the church. It was also the season of my first civil rights march, a "Children's March" where Daddy and James Orange and others taught me the tenants of nonviolent protests.
Even though I wasn't on the team of consultants who worked with the producers, I'm glad the film is in the atmosphere. While SELMA is historically informative and entertaining, having lived through those days, I would have appreciated more historical accuracy. I know that everyone can't be included in such projects, but on a personal note, I was saddened to find no mention of my Dad, who not only marched in Selma, but was also felled (and recovered) along with not only John Lewis, but with many others, including Hosea Williams and my dearly departed friend James Orange.
So many people have contacted me regarding the overtones regarding references to Uncle ML's responses to the attacks on his personal life. I have only this to say. Like all of the Bible heroes, Uncle was a human being, an imperfect man who served a perfect God. He and Daddy are in Heaven now, in the company with David, Moses, Paul, Rahab, The Woman at the Well, The Woman caught in the act... Uncle ML was a devoted prophet and Man of God. Need I say more?
Overall I enjoyed the film, and I recommend the film for viewing."
Coincidentally, I was just talking about the film to a few friends (those who, like myself, aren't as in love with the film as many others are) and they too were disappointed with how little screen time such major icons of the civil rights movement (including Hosea Williams and all the women characters) have in the film. More specifically, how small their roles are in the story. As broad as the film presents itself to be, it's still quite miniature in scope.
Anyway, I'd love to hear your thoughts on this in the comments box. It seems like everyone has an opinion about it.
For more information on Dr. Alveda King, click here.