Friday, December 26, 2014

Selma

Selma
seen @ AMC Loews Lincoln Square 13, New York, NY
12.26.14

Love and hate. You can't have one without the other, and ever since the dawn of time, it seems like they've gone at each other like battering rams. We try to use love to rise above our baser instincts, but hate inevitably does its best to drag us down.

Are we forever doomed to be locked in this cycle? I certainly hope not, but for every step forward we seem to make in the struggle to transcend ignorance, intolerance and bigotry, we end up taking two steps back, and - to address the elephant in the room - I'm not just talking about the events this year in Ferguson, Missouri. Horrific as that was, it's only the latest in a long line of examples. All around the world, similar injustices continue to take place, and not all of them get a similar level of attention.

It has been difficult for me to hang on to hope. Not that these are things that I think about every hour of every day, but sometimes, I truly believe the world would be much better off if society as we know it were to be torn to pieces so that we can start over - presumably in order to not make the same mistakes again. I don't believe in God, so I'm not convinced that the answer will come from an omnipotent father figure who fails to make his presence known. So what's left?



The way I see it, we as a species cannot continue to go on this way. We cannot continue to tear away at each other, hating for no other reason than to hate. We not only destroy each other, we destroy the earth itself. So I think that sooner, rather than later, we're gonna reach a tipping point, and when we do, we're gonna fall either one way... or the other. No in-between.



Still, victories do count for something, which leads us to Selma. I had said last year, when I wrote about 12 Years a Slave, that I didn't want its success to lead to more period pieces about blacks and civil rights at the expense of movies about the current black experience. What I failed to realize is that the one informs the other, for better or for worse. 



Obviously, no one could have foreseen that current events here in America would conspire to make this movie even more relevant. I think the filmmakers would agree that this is not the kind of publicity they would've chosen for their film. But the events of Ferguson have happened, and I think that if Selma has a purpose, it's to offer that hope that seems in such short supply lately. To see how Martin Luther King Jr. dealt with bigotry and systemic discrimination in his lifetime means something today, and that would be true no matter how 2014 turned out.



It's an unusual but fortunate coincidence that over the life of this blog, I've been able to track the career of Ava DuVernay, not just as a writer-director, but as the guiding force behind the black film distribution network AFFRM. Over the course of its brief life, they've been responsible for bringing quality independent films to theaters nationwide - not the art houses, but actual multiplexes in big cities. This is a remarkable feat that doesn't get talked about enough.

Even with the small success that Middle of Nowhere saw last year, if you had told me that DuVernay would go on to direct a Best Picture caliber-film as quickly as she has, I would not have believed it. Part of it is timing, of course, and to be brutally honest, I still wish she had done it with a screenplay of hers, but she has made the material her own, and seeing what she's capable of with a bigger budget and a major studio behind her has been breathtaking. And when she becomes the fifth woman to be nominated for the Best Director Oscar, it will be an extraordinary accomplishment indeed, as well as a hopeful one. (My money's still on Richard Linklater for the win, though.)

4 comments:

  1. Really looking forward to seeing this, as we just recently watched documentary footage of the same scenario in the Eyes on the Prize series.

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  2. Forgot to mention that this movie reminded me of LINCOLN: a slice of a great leader's life in which he fought for a critical change in society while not only battling the opposition, but factions within his own camp, with the shadow of his untimely death looming in the future. Also, like LINCOLN, it looks like a star vehicle but it's a bit more of an ensemble. This movie is bulletproof.

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  3. Did those involved in the struggle in the 60s imagine that in 2015 they would be facing the same skirmishes? It seems each generation has to learn things anew. It can be very demoralizing.

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  4. A quotation concerning the results of a failure to remember the past comes to mind.

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