Screen shot 2015-01-19 at 2.56.01 PM

I saw the movie and love it and I’m thrilled that a black woman, Ava DuVernay, directed. This is the story of  a seminal moment in American history: the 1965 Selma to Montgomery, Alabama marches for the rights of blacks to vote. It was a horrific time in the story of our nation. This film gets a lot of things right: the portrayal of the racially charged era, which is itself a character; the rendering of the place and the portrait of the iconic man. This last one is tricky because King the IDEA lives so strongly in the hearts of so many. David Oyelowo, [pronounced o-yellow-o] gives a stirring performance as King.

Screen shot 2015-01-19 at 2.44.30 PM

Guest Blogger Dennis Roberts—Oakland, CA Attorney at Law—reflects on the film, Selma and his days as a young attorney working in Southwest Georgia during the 1960s Civil Rights Movement.

I met Dennis in June 2011 when I went home to Albany, GA for the 50th anniversary of the Albany Civil Rights Movement. After reading his take on the film I decided you should experience it yourself as he looks at these events from the inside:

Wednesday, January 7, 2015, 12:42 AM

By Dennis Roberts

Just returned from seeing Selma. AARP gives us old folks free tickets from time to time.  I couldn’t imagine that they would put Selma on their roster but they did.

The older you get the more emotional you get. What did I think when I wasn’t weeping? For me it was incredibly emotion provoking. Right near the beginning a couple of  SNCC [Snick(Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee) guys are talking about how Martin came to Albany, Georgia, got everyone excited and marching, then left hundreds in jail, was mysteriously bailed after pledging to stay in jail until the trial, and never returned. (They don’t talk about his bailing but they talk about the rest of it.) It was his first loss but because it didn’t get national headlines as it was early in his rise to fame no one ever talks about this – but the movie did and that impressed me.

This is a great truth no one ever wanted to talk about and there were other truths which are not talked about back then other than in Movement circles.  SNCC referred to him as “De Lawd”.  C. B. King had a great story about visiting Martin in jail and he was resplendent in his blue silk pajamas so it wasn’t like he didn’t have feet of clay, but bottom line he was an incredible person.  One thing wonderfully portrayed is his sticking it in LBJ’s eye, no compromise and a beautiful speech about it.  And I was personally gratified that they never mentioned that little scum bag Bobby Kennedy.  Don’t get me started on that one.

Dennis1960s

Circa 1971. Dennis being interviewed by radio station during pre-trial motions at Marin County Courthouse. Check out the “afro”!

A problem for me is that I knew Diane Nash (Bevel) and her husband Jim Bevel and John Door and so many other characters—and I knew the whole SCLC (Southern Christian Leadership Conference) crew and the SNCC folks—so the looks of those actors are a little off putting. But that was my problem, one few movie goers will feel.  Now the guy who played Dr. King was terrific and the fact that he was not a mirror image of Dr. King was not a problem for me. As you watch HE IS Dr. King.

Do you know that all those great resounding speeches by  Dr. King are NOT his words. The King siblings, who make a ton of money from his image and words and who fight viciously about everything (except this) would not give permission so the speeches were created by the writers, but unless you knew this fact you would believe every word was spoken by Martin.

Also Malcolm has a tiny role but again very accurate.  There are some historical inaccuracies like Laurie Pritchett, instead of referring to him as the Chief of Police of Albany, they make him the Sheriff but who besides me, a handful of SNCC folks still alive and the surviving Movement folks of Albany would hear that line and sit up straight.  But it is important to note that none of the above takes anything away from the fact that it is a terribly moving and pretty damn accurate film.  Here is the best testament to the film.

At the end there  was  not that much applause which seemed weird until virtually everyone in the audience sat without moving, not only through the general credits, the actors, and the best boy and all that stuff, but all the way to the end where they run those little bits about what movie companies were involved with their logos.

And then I realized why so little applause: people were stunned, burned to a crisp, could not get up out of those seats and go home. And there were a lot of old folks (I mean this viewing was sponsored by AARP) so I would guess quite a few were involved or at least lived through the period.

Don’t take what sounds like negativism as a put down of the film.  It is just if you were there your eye picks up little jarring notes here and there, kind of a Movement “proof reader”.

 

After the film I was emotionally spent. I ate dinner and went to bed far earlier than I have gone in months (other than New Years Eve).

“I tell everyone to see the film—and I mean everyone: from family to friends to
clients. It is the first true story to come out of those incredible days.” ~ Dennis Roberts

From the Civil Rights Movement in the deep south of 1963 to the struggle against Federal Mandates on Medical Marijuana today, Oakland Criminal Defense Attorney, Dennis Roberts has been an advocate for Civil Rights, freedom of choice, and the power of the individual to self-determine. Dennis brings over 50 years of practice to the area of Criminal Law.

From the Civil Rights Movement in the deep south of 1963 to the struggle against Federal Mandates on Medical Marijuana today, Oakland Criminal Defense Attorney, Dennis Roberts has been an advocate for Civil Rights, freedom of choice, and the power of the individual to self-determine. Dennis brings over 50 years of practice to the area of Criminal Law.