Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Revisiting "Selma"

I've been thinking I might go see Selma again, if it stays in the theatres for another few weeks.  I was struck by this post where the author is planning to see the movie for a third and fourth time.  I thought, right, I could see this movie again.

Why would I do that?  Let me list some reasons:

--I would go for the same reason I went the first time.  I want Hollywood to make more movies like this one, based on real heroes, not superheroes.  I want directors like Ava DuVernay to be able to make more movies.  For that to happen, the movie needs to make money.

--I need this story, this story of how regular people changed their society.  I need to be reminded that it can be done, even when the odds are long.

--I like seeing all the people in this film who look so normal--it makes me remember how rare that is in Hollywood, and how shaped we are by these film and TV depictions of regular bodies, which aren't normal at all.  But in Selma, we see actual old people.  We see heavy people.  In this interview, DuVernay talks about using extras in the movie, extras who were regular people who just happened to live in Alabama where she was filming.  She talked with such care about how much she loved the lines and creases in their faces.

--I love seeing the small towns of the U.S. South.  I love those back roads, although I realize that the rural roads represented something different to black citizens throughout much of U.S. history.

--I love the accents, although truth be told, the black actors do a better job than the white actors.  Most of the white actors get the Southern accent wrong, especially the Southern accent of the middle part of the 20th century, which was so thick as to be almost incomprehensible to modern ears.

--I miss that accent, although it drove me crazy when I was surrounded by it all the time.  Now there are days when I want to call the switchboard at the South Carolina schools were I went to college and grad school.  I want to hear that syrup.

--Now I am laughing at myself because of the idea that my schools still pay someone to work the switchboard.  But there are times when those student workers call to ask me to donate to this scholarship fund or that one, and I say yes, partly because scholarships helped me, partly because I was once that student making some money by staffing the phones--and partly because the accent makes me susceptible.

--Selma reminds me of so much of my kin, although it's the black version of my kin.  I think of the elders who spent much of their free time in church.  I think of the older generations in this movie who were so patient with the younger generations.  I think of the women who cook and cook and cook some more and get no help with the dishes--the men have important work to do, after all!

--Yes, it's not a time I'd want to travel back to or to live in.  But I might want to revisit it by seeing Selma again.  It makes me appreciate what I have and the opportunities that are mine, simply because I was born in 1965, not 1925.

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