As I’m sure you remember, yesterday was Martin Luther King Jr. Day. The domestication of memory that comes with an official holiday is sometimes startling. Certain communities boil a life down to selected quotes, prooftexts, to be used and mobilized for a range of agendas. It is common in American culture for our acts of remembering to operate as moments of deep forgetting. However, thankfully, there are ways to resist such acts, and one of them is in the recently released film, Selma.
Film critic Scott Tobias recently wrote in the Dissolve:
But Selma’s true success is as a chamber piece, not a thundering historical epic. DuVernay, who did an uncredited overhaul on Paul Webb’s original script, excels at imagining intimate scenes of great importance, like King’s dealings with LBJ in the Oval Office, the oft-contentious strategy meetings within his inner circles, and his private troubles with Coretta Scott King (Carmen Ejogo), who confronts him about his infidelity. All these scenes inform and enrich the action once it moves to the public stage, like all the contentious rewrites and rehearsals that make a première possible.
Selma is an important film for many reasons, but it thankfully it avoids the pitfalls of the epic and draws our attention to what is frequently forgotten. It is about more than just the words of the Civil Rights movement, but what it meant and required of the bodies of those involved. It resists the easy and abstract mythology of Martin Luther King Jr., instead engaging the exhaustion, the doubts, and the threat and reality of systemic violence. So, indeed, today is just as good a day to remember as any.
Drawing Credit: 05slheas