Martin Luther King, Jr. Day is a floating American federal holiday marking the birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr. Whilst King’s actual birthday is January 15th, the federal holiday takes place on the third Monday of January each year. Yesterday – Monday 19th January – was the official Martin Luther King, Jr. Day 2015, and so I saw a preview of Selma at Cinema City, Norwich.
Selma, directed by Ava Duvernay, is a truly devastating drama that frames possibly the most defining social trauma of modern times. The film focuses primarily on the events that took place in Selma, Alabama in 1964, whereby black citizens were repeatedly denied voting rights by their white counterparts through means such as impossible “literacy” tests and other methods of oppression whilst President Lyndon B. Johnson persevered in refusing to implement laws that would finally give a democratic voice to all, regardless of race. Selma focuses upon Martin Luther King, Jr.’s efforts in leading non-violent protests in order to promote equality and push Johnson into prioritising civil rights over poverty issues in the United States.
The violence faced by black citizens was extremely hard to watch at times during the film, but is of central importance in illustrating the events which took place in Alabama. Selma is a film which celebrates King’s dedication to the civil rights movement without lionising him into an icon, thus proving a fitting means of celebrating his work.
Selma is released across the UK on 6th February 2015.