The film that’s been talked about the most among Americans during the past few weeks is not the one I most want to see right now.
In fact, I have no intention at all of buying a ticket, paying an online fee or purchasing outright the movie “The Interview,” the Sony Pictures comedy that’s being ballyhooed because of North Korea’s objection to the depiction (and scripted assassination plot) of its leader, Kim Jong Un.
The real interest in that film is not what’s on the screen, but the turmoil that has surrounded it: the obvious political implications, the computer hacking of a major motion picture company, not-so-veiled threats on moviegoers by the perpetrators, and Sony’s behavior regarding the movie’s release/non-release/release.
No, I’ve had my fill of “The Interview,” and now I anxiously await the national release of a drama that portrays real-life events that have had an incredible impact on my life and the country as a whole.
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“Selma” chronicles the voting rights campaign in the Alabama city in 1965 and, based on some early reviews and several notable award nominations, it does an excellent job of capturing that moment in the civil rights movement.
This film is not without its own controversy, with several people objecting to the portrayal of President Johnson as an obstructionist to the movement.
Johnson, because of his actions for equality, was my personal hero. I wept when he gave a speech to a joint session of Congress on the day a third attempt was made for a march from Selma to Montgomery.
It was in that speech that the president announced he was sending the Voting Rights Act to Congress, and he incorporated the theme of the civil rights movement: “We shall overcome.”
The movie “Selma” no doubt will bring back some of the pain – not the physical pain felt by many of those who were beaten on that “Bloody Sunday” of March 7, but the agony many of us felt as we watched the violence on TV screens while wondering, “Is this really happening in America?”
Yes, “Selma” will remind us of a time not so long ago when people in this country were brutally discriminated against, and when the law turned its billy clubs on innocent people who simply wanted that basic American right.
Keep in mind that Selma, the city, at the time was almost 60 percent black, and yet because of discrimination only between 1 and 3 percent of African-Americans were registered to vote.
It was out of that movement that true heroes emerged, not just the now-famous ones, but also people like Annie Lee Cooper (played in the new film by Oprah Winfrey), the Selma native who hit Sheriff Jim Clark in the jaw after he prodded her with a billy club as she stood in line to register to vote.
The movie, coincidentally, is coming out at a time in which America once again finds itself divided over race, and particularly over how police and the justice system in general treat people of color.
Nominated for four Golden Globe Awards, including best picture (drama), “Selma” will be released nationally Friday, just days before the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s Jan. 15 birthday, which just happens to coincide with the day the Academy Award nominations will be announced.
I can’t wait to see it.
Bob Ray Sanders is a columnist for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.