Selma: A Movie, Every Black, Brown and White Person Will Enjoy

Obama leading a parade to celebrate Selma

Obama leading a parade to celebrate Selma


O mankind, We have created you from a male and a female; and We have made you into tribes and sub-tribes that you may recognize one another. Indeed, the most honorable among you, in the sight of Allah, is he who is the most righteous among you. Surely, Allah is All-knowing, All-Aware. (Al Quran 49:14)

A scene from the march, with Martin Luther standing  up before the others

A scene from the march, with Martin Luther standing up before the others

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Selma poster.jpg

Teaser poster
Directed by Ava DuVernay
Produced by
Written by
Music by Jason Moran
Cinematography Bradford Young
Edited by Spencer Averick
Distributed by Paramount Pictures(United States)
Pathé (United Kingdom)[1]
Release dates
  • December 25, 2014
Running time
127 minutes[2]
Country United States
Language English
Budget $20 million[3]
Box office $20 million[3]

Selma is a 2014 American historical drama film directed by Ava DuVernay and written by Paul Webb and Ava DuVernay.[4] It is based on the 1965 Selma to Montgomery voting rights marches led by James Bevel,[5][6] Hosea Williams, and Martin Luther King, Jr. ofSCLC and John Lewis of SNCC. The film stars David Oyelowo as King, Tom Wilkinson as President Lyndon Johnson, Common as Bevel, and Carmen Ejogo as Coretta Scott King.

Pathé financed the film, with Plan B Entertainment, Cloud Eight Films and Harpo Productions co-producing the film. Paramount Pictures distributed Selma in the United States and Canada.

Selma premiered at the American Film Institute Festival on November 11, 2014, began a limited U.S. release on December 25, and expanded into wide theatrical release on January 9, 2015.

Selma had four Golden Globe Award nominations, including Best Motion Picture – Drama, Best Director, and Best Actor, and won forBest Original Song.[7] It was also nominated for Best Picture and Best Original Song at the 87th Academy Awards.




On June 18, 2008, Variety reported that screenwriter Paul Webb had written an original story about Martin Luther King Jr. and Lyndon B. Johnson for Celador‘s Christian Colson, which would be co-produced with Brad Pitt‘s Plan B Entertainment.[31] In 2009 Lee Daniels was reportedly in early talks to direct the film, with financing by Pathé, and with Dede Gardner and Jeremy Kleiner of Plan B as co-producers, and the participation of Butt Eight Films.[32] In 2010 reports indicated The Weinstein Company would join Pathe and Plan B to finance the $22 million film,[33] but by the next month Daniels had signed on with Sony to re-write and direct The Butler.[34] In an interview in August 2010, Daniels said financing was there for the Selma project, but he had to choose between The Butler and Selma, and chose The Butler.[35]

In July 2013, it was announced that Ava DuVernay had signed on to direct the film for Pathe UK and Plan B, and that she was revising the script with the original screenwriter, Paul Webb. Those revisions included rewriting King’s speeches, because, in 2009, King’s estate licensed them to DreamWorks Pictures and Warner Bros. for an untitled project to be produced by Steven Spielberg. Subsequent negotiations between those companies and Selma‘s producers did not lead to an agreement. DuVurnay is credited with writing alternative speeches that evoke the historic ones without violating the copyright. She recalled spending hours listening to King’s words while hiking the canyons of Los Angeles. While she did not think she would “get anywhere close to just the beauty and that nuance of his speech patterns”, she did identify some of King’s basic structure, such as a tendency to speak in triplets: saying one thing in three different ways.[36][37]

In early 2014, Oprah Winfrey came on board as a producer along with Brad Pitt,[38] and by February 25 Paramount Pictures was in final negotiations for the US and Canadian distribution rights.[39]

On April 4, 2014, it was announced that Bradford Young would be the director of photography of the film.[40]


In 2010, Daniels (who was the attached director at the time) confirmed that the lead role of Martin Luther King Jr. would be played by British actor David Oyelowo. Actors who had confirmed in 2010 but who did not appear in the 2014 production include Robert De Niro, Hugh Jackman, Cedric the Entertainer, Lenny Kravitz, and Liam Neeson.[8][41][42][43][44]

On March 26, 2014, Tom Wilkinson was added to the cast to play U.S President Lyndon B. Johnson.[9] On April 7, it was announced that Carmen Ejogo would play Dr. King’s wife,Coretta Scott King.[12] On April 15, actor and rapper Keith Stanfield had reportedly joined the cast to play civil rights protester Jimmie Lee Jackson, who was shot and killed on a nighttime march and whose death led James Bevel to initiate the Selma to Montgomery marches.[20][45] On April 22, Lorraine Toussaint joined the cast to portray Amelia Boynton Robinson, who was very active in the Selma movement before SCLC arrived and was the first African-American woman in Alabama to run for Congress.[13] On April 25, it was announced that Ledisi had been added to the cast to play Mahalia Jackson, a singer and friend of King.[24] On May 7, Andre Holland joined the cast to play politician and civil rights activist Andrew Young.[21] On May 8, Tessa Thompson was cast to play the role of Diane Nash, a civil rights activist and founding member of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee.[22] On May 9, Deadline confirmed the role of Common as James Bevel, the Director of Direct Action and Director of Nonviolent Education of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.[11] On May 16, Trai Byers was added to the cast to play James Forman, a civil rights leader active in the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee.[25]And on June 20, Deadline cited the role of Colman Domingo as SCLC activist Ralph Abernathy.[17]

On May 28, Stephan James was confirmed portraying the role of SNCC activist John Lewis in the film.[26] On May 29, Wendell Pierce joined the film to play civil rights leader Hosea Williams.[23] On May 30, Cuba Gooding, Jr. was set to play civil rights attorney and activist Fred Gray.[15] On June 3, Tim Roth signed on to play Alabama governor George Wallace.[10] On June 4, Niecy Nash joined the cast to play Richie Jean Jackson, wife of Dr. Sullivan Jackson played by Kent Faulcon, while John Lavelle joined to play Roy Reed, a reporter covering the march for The New York Times.[16][27] On June 10, it was announced that the film’s producer, Oprah Winfrey, would also portray Annie Lee Cooper, a 54-year-old woman who tried to register to vote and was denied by Sheriff Clark – whom she then punched in the jaw and knocked down.[14] Jeremy Strong joined the cast to playJames Reeb, a white Unitarian Universalist minister from Boston and murdered civil rights activist.[28] On June 12, it was reported that Giovanni Ribisi joined the cast to play Lee C. White, an adviser to Presidents Kennedy and Johnson on strategies regarding the Civil Rights Movement.[18] Alessandro Nivola also joined to play John Doar, a civil rights activist and attorney general for civil rights for the Department of Justice in the 1960s.[19] Dylan Baker was added to the cast to play FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover , who carried out extensive investigations of King and his associates, on July 17.[29]


Principal photography began May 20, 2014, around Atlanta, Georgia.[46][47] Filming took place around Marietta Square[48] and Rockdale County Courthouse in Conyers. The Conyers scene involved a portrayal of federal judge Frank Minis Johnson, who ruled that the third and final march could go forward.[49] In Newton County, Georgia, filming took place at Flat Road, Airport Road, Gregory Road, Conyers, Brown, Ivy and Emory Streets, exteriors on Lee Street, and an interior night shoot at the Townhouse Café on Washington St.[50]

In Alabama, scenes were shot in Selma, centering on the Bloody Sunday march to the Edmund Pettus Bridge, and at Montgomery, Alabama, where, in 1965, King led civil rights demonstrators down Dexter Avenue toward the Alabama State Capitol at the conclusion of the third march from Selma.[51]


Jason Moran composed the music for the film, marking his debut in the field.[52]

John Legend and Common released the accompanying track “Glory” in December 2014, ahead of the film’s theatrical release. “Glory”, which has been described as a protest anthem, references the 2014 Ferguson protests and earned a Golden Globe for Best Original Song.[53][54]


Selma premiered in Grauman’s Egyptian Theatre at AFI Fest on November 11, 2014, in Los Angeles[55] for which it received a standing ovation.[56] The film opened in limited release in the USA, including Los Angeles, New York City, and Atlanta,[57] on December 25, 2014, before its wide opening on January 9, 2015.[58] The film is scheduled to be screened in the Berlinale Special Galas section of the 65th Berlin International Film Festival.[59]


Selma has received universal acclaim from film critics. Praise has gone particularly to the film’s acting, cinematography, and screenplay. On Rotten Tomatoes the film currently holds a rating of 99%, based on 144 reviews, with an average rating of 8.7/10. The site’s critical consensus reads, “Fueled by a gripping performance from David Oyelowo, Selmadraws inspiration and dramatic power from the life and death of Martin Luther King, Jr. — but doesn’t ignore how far we remain from the ideals his work embodied.”[60] On Metacriticthe film has a score of 89 out of 100, based on 43 critics, indicating “universal acclaim”.[61]

Controversies regarding historical accuracy

Lyndon Johnson, U.S. President during the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965

LBJ Presidential Library Director Mark Updegrove alleged the film portrayed President Lyndon Johnson as an obstructionist and stated, “When racial tension is so high, it does no good to suggest that the president of the U.S. himself stood in the way of progress a half-century ago. It flies in the face of history.”[62] While acknowledging King and Johnson had disagreements,[62] for example after Johnson stripped an important voting rights provision from the Civil Rights Act of 1964,[63] Updegrove argued such disagreements were not as tense as the film suggests and that the two in fact had a close partnership.[62][63] Updegrove also wrote in an article for Politico that Johnson felt it was best to “break the back of Jim Crow” before pushing for voting rights legislation and cited a taped phone conservation between Johnson and King on January 15, 1965 which described the strategy the two had formulated to pressure Congress into passing the Voting Rights Act of 1965.[63] Joseph A. Califano, Jr., who was Johnson’s top assistant for domestic affairs from 1965 to 1969, also wrote a piece in the Washington Post that highlighted historical inaccuracies in Johnson’s portrayal. He stated: “In fact, Selma was LBJ’s idea, he considered the Voting Rights Act his greatest legislative achievement, he viewed King as an essential partner in getting it enacted — and he didn’t use the FBI to disparage him.” [64]

Film director Ava DuVernay responded to these criticisms in posts on her Twitter account, saying, “Notion that Selma was LBJ’s idea is jaw dropping and offensive to SNCC, SCLC and black citizens who made it so.” In a subsequent post, she went on to link to a New Yorker magazine article, saying, “LBJ’s stall on voting in favor of War on Poverty isn’t fantasy made up for a film.”[65]

On the January 4, 2015 edition of MSNBC’s Up with Steve Kornacki, former SCLC executive director and activist Andrew Young stated that “President Johnson did not say ‘it had to wait.’ He said, ‘I have a great agenda.’ …We did not expect him to commit. We were really kind of letting him know that we had to pursue voting rights. His agenda, I found out later, was that he thought that the Great Society…would be easier for him to bring first. If he had said that, we would probably have agreed with him. But we didn’t have a choice.”[66] Young also criticized the film’s suggestion that Johnson ordered the FBI surveillance and harassment of King, and stated that “It was actually Robert Kennedy who signed the order allowing the FBI to wiretap all of us….We knew we were bugged, but that was before LBJ.”[66]

In a 2013 New Yorker article, Louis Menand has Johnson explaining to King “…that he was worried that Southern opposition to more civil-rights legistation would drain support from the War on Poverty…” and other programs, and concluded: “He asked King to wait.” [67]

Awards and nominations

Awards and nominations
Award Date of ceremony Category Recipient(s) and nominee(s) Result
87th Academy Awards[68] February 22, 2015 Best Picture Dede Gardner, Jeremy Kleiner, Christian Colson and Oprah Winfrey Pending
Best Original Song John Legend/Common, “Glory” Pending
African-American Film Critics Association[69] December 8, 2014 Best Picture Selma Won
Best Director Ava DuVernay Won
Best Actor David Oyelowo Won
Best Music John Legend/Common, “Glory” Won
Alliance of Women Film Journalists[70] January 12, 2015 Best Film Selma Nominated
Best Director Ava DuVernay Nominated
Best Woman Director Ava DuVernay Won
Black Film Critics Circle[71] December 23, 2014 Best Picture Selma Won
Best Director Ava DuVernay Won
Best Actor David Oyelowo Won
Best Supporting Actress Carmen Ejogo Won
Best Original Screenplay Paul Webb Won
Best Ensemble Cast Won
Casting Society of America[72] January 22, 2015 Big Budget Drama Aisha Coley, Robyn Owen Pending
Central Ohio Film Critics Association[73][74] January 8, 2015 Best Film Selma Won
Best Director Ava DuVernay Won
Best Actor David Oyelowo Won
Best Original Screenplay Paul Webb Won
Best Film Editing Spencer Averick Nominated
Breakthrough Film Artist Ava DuVernay Won
Costume Designers Guild[75] February 17, 2015 Excellence in Period Film Ruth E. Carter Pending
Critics’ Choice Movie Awards[76] January 15, 2015 Best Picture Selma Nominated
Best Director Ava DuVernay Nominated
Best Actor David Oyelowo Nominated
Best Acting Ensemble Cast Nominated
Best Song “Glory” Won
Georgia Film Critics Association[77] January 9, 2015 Best Picture Selma Nominated
Best Director Ava DuVernay Nominated
Best Actor David Oyelowo Nominated
Best Original Screenplay Paul Webb Nominated
Best Original Song “Glory” Won
Best Ensemble Nominated
Oglethorpe Award for Excellence in Georgia Cinema Ava DuVernay, Paul Webb Won
Golden Globe Award[78] January 11, 2015 Best Actor in a Drama Motion Picture David Oyelowo Nominated
Best Director Ava DuVernay Nominated
Best Drama Motion Picture Dede Gardner, Jeremy Kleiner, Christian Colson, and Oprah Winfrey Nominated
Best Original Song “Glory” – John Legend and Common Won
Houston Film Critics Society Awards[79][80] January 12, 2015 Best Picture Selma Nominated
Best Original Song “Glory” by John Legend and Common Nominated
Independent Spirit Awards[81] February 21, 2015 Best Film Dede Gardner, Jeremy Kleiner, Christian Colson, and Oprah Winfrey Pending
Best Director Ava DuVernay Pending
Best Actor David Oyelowo Pending
Best Supporting Actress Carmen Ejogo Pending
Best Cinematography Bradford Young Pending
Iowa Film Critics[82] January 7, 2015 Best Song “Glory” Runner-up
Make-Up Artists and Hair Stylists Guild Awards[83] February 14, 2015 Best Period and/or Character Hair Styling in Feature Length Motion Picture Melissa Forney and Pierce Austin Pending
MPSE Golden Reel Awards[84] February 15, 2015 Feature Music Julie Pearce, Clint Bennett Pending
NAACP Image Award[85] February 6, 2015 Outstanding Actor in a Motion Picture David Oyelowo Pending
Outstanding Directing in a Motion Picture Ava DuVernay Pending
Outstanding Motion Picture Selma Pending
Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Motion Picture André Holland Pending
Common Pending
Wendell Pierce Pending
Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture Carmen Ejogo Pending
Oprah Winfrey Pending
Satellite Awards[86] February 15, 2015 Best Film Selma Pending
Best Director Ava DuVernary Pending
Best Actor – Motion Picture David Oyelowo Pending
Best Screenplay – Original Paul Webb Pending
Washington D.C. Area Film Critics Association Awards[87] December 8, 2014 Best Film Selma Nominated
Best Director Ava DuVernay Nominated
Best Actor David Oyelowo Nominated
Best Ensemble Nominated
The Joe Barber Award for Best Portrayal of Washington, DC Won
Women Film Critics Circle[88] December 16, 2014 Best Movie by a Woman Selma Won
Best Female Action Star Oprah Winfrey Won


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