On Martin Luther King Day, watching movements at the movies

19 Jan 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

On Martin Luther King Day, watching movements at the movies.

Martin Luther King, Jr. Sweating as he marched with the crowd snaking its way up to the Edward Pettus Bridge, Paul Adams was suddenly jostled by the sea ahead of him coming to a dead stop.

Then 25, Adams had made the trek from Chicago to Selma — flying first to Atlanta, then to Montgomery and getting a ride from a cousin to the town where the Rev. It’s meant to honor the undeniable personal greatness of one of the leaders of the African-American civil rights movement, but it often ends up as a stand-in for a celebration of the movement he helped lead. British actor David plays King in the movie, which tells the story of a three-month period that year when King led the movement for voting rights in the face of violent opposition.

Comments that are judged to be defamatory, abusive or in bad taste are not acceptable and contributors who consistently fall below certain criteria will be permanently blacklisted. Moviemakers like great men (or occasionally, great women), because their stories let artists and politicians anchor the hard work of history in a single personality. Hundreds of marchers were hurt and some suffered critical injuries. “We’re going across the bridge, and all of a sudden, everything stopped, and I’m all the way toward the back of the throng so I could not see the front of the march to know what was going on.

But 2014 brought us two fine movies about movements, and on this complicated holiday, I thought it was worth giving “Selma” and “Pride” another look to see how well they escape the traps that often simplify our history. I said to myself, ‘This just might be it’,” said Adams, 74, who was born in Montgomery, Alabama. “The communication during the march was just really poor.

The work of movements unfolds over years, which gives filmmakers options: they can re-create the most well-known moments from history, or they can pick lesser-known vignettes, challenging audiences who think they know everything about the past and finding new angles into major figures’ personalities. For American audiences, “Pride” feels fresh because it’s about a political conflict that’s less well-known in the United States than in the United Kingdom: the miners’ strike that lasted from 1984 to 1985. And even in a U.K. media environment saturated with stories about the strike, director Matthew Warchus and writer Stephen Beresford have a new angle, the financial support a group of gay activists from London offered to a Welsh mining community. “Selma” has been rightly praised for getting beyond the cinematic obsession with white people rejecting their own racism and joining the fight against inequality. We get Colman Domingo as Ralph Abernathy, who would take up leadership of the Poor People’s Campaign after King’s death, exactly the kind of sophisticated, multi-issue politics that show up in “Pride.” There is even less time for Bayard Rustin (Ruben Santiago-Hudson), whose political concerns included pacifism, socialism and gay rights. We knew that was a good thing.” The Selma to Montgomery marches that took place in March 1965 — now the subject of a blockbuster movie starring Nigerian-born actors David Oyelowo as King and Carmen Ejogo as his wife, Coretta Scott, along with Chicagoans Oprah Winfrey and musician Common — led to President Lyndon Johnson’s signing of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

The critically acclaimed movie received Oscar nominations only for best picture and original song, sparking social media backlash and the hashtag #OscarsSoWhite. In one scene, King and his colleagues arrive at the home of Richie Jean Jackson (Niecy Nash), who provides the Southern Christian Leadership Conference with its base of operations in Selma. Liuzzo, a 39-year-old white woman from Michigan who helped with logistics and coordination of the marches, was shot by members of the Ku Klux Klan as she drove back from a trip shuttling fellow activists to the Montgomery airport. Overall, Adams thought the movie did a good job of capturing the essence of the human drama that played out in Selma 50 years ago, irrevocably leaving its mark on a nation and on a young Adams. “My cousin, when driving me down, said, ‘You should take a weapon with you.’ I told him, ‘I can’t do that.

This is a nonviolent march, and if I feel that way, I shouldn’t be here,’” Adams recalled. “Nobody else in my family was going, and my mother was very upset I was going. She said to me, ‘Why don’t you let somebody else go?’ And I said, ‘I am that somebody else.’ And so I arrived at Brown Chapel, where King and the organizers were headquartered, on Saturday night, and Sunday morning, the march started out for Montgomery.” “After the prayer on Pettus Bridge, we kept marching down U.S. Rather than telling us more about character and tensions within the SCLC, the men mostly crowd the room so each can speak a sentence or two about the various options that are most important to them. Mark (Ben Schnetzer), the gay rights activist who first comes with the idea of raising money for striking mining communities as a show of solidarity from one group at war with Margaret Thatcher’s administration to another, is personally charismatic, but he’s not the head of any organization, and the people he rallies are his friends. In fact, Dai accept the money that Mark and his fledgling group raise without telling the national organization that they’re doing so, since the Union had already rejected the funds out of fear of alienating socially conservative supporters.

She was driving, and they just drove up, pushed her off the road, and shot her,” he said. “My uncle, who had joined the rally in Montgomery with other family members, ended up driving past the car that she was murdered in. In London “Pride” deftly balances plotlines about Joe (George McKay), a young man who embraces activism even though he hasn’t yet come out to his parents; Gethin (Andrew Scott), who is initially reluctant to join the movement because, as he puts it of his Welsh family who rejected him when he came out “Let’s just say there isn’t always a welcome in the hillsides”; Gethin’s partner Jonathan (Dominic West) who has been demoralized by his HIV diagonsis; and Steph (Faye Marsay) who comes to reject a movement for lesbian separatism in favor of work to support the miners. She was still in the car.” Adams found out about the murder that night as march organizers and participants celebrated at Montgomery’s Ben Moore Hotel, then the only black hotel. “And I’ll tell you, when the news hit, you’ve never seen people leave town so fast,” he says. “People hightailed it out of Montgomery on anything moving north.” Adams was 14 when he met King at a high school assembly. At the same time, in Wales, the strike and the support of the London activists galvanizes Sian (Jessica Gunning), a brilliant woman who hasn’t had the education or encouragement to recognize her own potential; Cliff (Bill Nighy), a gentle, intellectual man who has conformed the community where he grew up; Hefina (Imelda Staunton) and Gwen (Menna Trussler), who are eager to become more culturally cosmopolitan; and Maureen (Lisa Palfrey), a rigid widow who fears that support from London imperils the miners’ slim hopes of victory. Blackballed from getting a teaching job in Alabama because of his protest activities, he moved to Chicago, where he founded the private, nonprofit Providence St.

The nationally lauded school, visited by U.S. presidents and profiled in a 2009 documentary “The Providence Effect,” for years has been the only Chicago school open on the King holiday. “Martin Luther King is my hero.

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