Selma, Lord, Selma Movie Review

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In the 1999 true story film Selma, Lord, Selma, viewers are engaged with eye-witness characters who relate the gruesome details of the events leading up to the Bloody Sunday that took place in Selma, Alabama in 1965.  The storyline is heavy material, and although a bit overacted at times, the film leaves viewers with a strong personal sense of the heartache, passion, community, and intense emotion of the Civil Rights Movement.
Director Charles Burnett’s portrayal of the event is unique and well-cast—the events are relayed to viewers through the almost exclusive perspective of Sheyann Webb (Jurnee Smollett), an eleven year old schoolgirl living in Selma, Alabama.  The concept for this perspective seemed impressive and unique, although, on-screen it felt awkward and unlikely, and certain scenes meant to be told through a child’s perspective seemed unbelievable.  However, it was easy to overlook as the included details of the story were all pertinent and the film progressed at a steady and evocative rate.  There were strong, structural plot points that developed at comfortable intervals and the script flowed naturally, although sometimes felt under or over performed by the actors.
Although this film has been released for a while, the message it conveys and the story it tells is obviously still poignant and relevant in society today, as proven by the recent 2014 box office hit, Selma.  A mark of a good film is its ability to impact viewers after its novelty and initial popularity wear out, and Selma, Lord, Selma is memorable for this very reason.  Although it may not be a well-known film, Selma, Lord, Selma should not be ignored for its lesser popularity than Hollywood’s more recent rendition of the story.  The power of this film lies in its cinematic, emotional portrayal of the invigorating and heart-wrenching events that occurred in Selma.  It was the depiction of these details that left a lasting impression—the relieved embrace of a mother who thought she had lost a daughter, the charged silence in the moments before the attacks on the Edmund Pettus Bridge, the small voice of a child singing her people’s hymn at the back of a broken and mourning church sanctuary—details captured effectively and reverently by the actors, cameramen, and director.  Despite being an older film, Selma, Lord, Selma still holds valuable history, an impactful glimpse into the breaking hearts of the Selma citizens, and wise commentary for the society that continues to evolve around us today.

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