The passage of laws effectively ending unwritten segregation in the South is presented as scrimmage between an establishment defense juggling many different needs, and an activist offense fed up with not being prioritized enough. At the heart of it lies David Oyelowo's fiery yet ambiguous Martin Luther King - portrayed as a man who asks himself if what he's doing will ever yield results, but who also will dispassionately strategize to make sure his work is maximized.
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Questions For Discussion
- Why do you think the filmmakers chose to start the film with Dr. King be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize before the church bombing of the girls and Annie Lee Cooper being denied the right to vote (out of chronological order)?
- How does the movie create an immediacy and an emotional response that reading about the same events might not?
- What do you think of MLK’s desire for conflict so that white consciousness could be raised? Was it a moral strategy? Do you think his thinking changed as the conflict escalated?
- Why do you think MLK turned back on the bridge even after the police stood down?
- What surprised you about the film? What questions remained after viewing it?
- How might seeing this film allow for a deeper understanding of history?
- The movie presents MLK in all his humanity - his fears, his failures, his strengths, and his weaknesses. Doe he still qualify as a hero or a prophet?
- How much of this film is about today’s world, not just the world of 1965? What does that say about “progress” or our ability to learn to be more just?
- The rapper Common, in his acceptance speech for his Golden Globe @ for Best Original Song said, “I am the hopeful black woman who was denied her right to vote. I am the caring white supporter killed on the front lines of freedom. I am the unarmed black kid who maybe needed a hand, but was instead given a bullet. I am the two fallen police officers slain in the line of duty… Selma has awakened my humanity. Selma is now.” What is your response? How is Selma now?
- How can we be faithful participants in society without becoming God-like in thinking we can ‘save the world’ and all its ills?