Seeing Selma

A round up of recent activity - vox pops, Twitter Chats, comment cards and more - on Selma, the story of Dr Martin Luther King's historic struggle to secure voting rights for African-Americans.

Last Friday (6 Feb) Selma marched on to our screens. It’s the story of Dr. Martin Luther King’s historic struggle to secure voting rights for African-Americans – a dangerous three month campaign that culminated in an epic 54-mile march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama.

As part of Conversations About Cinema: Impact of Conflict, a new UK-wide strand which explores the effects of war and conflict, we have presented a series of introductions, events and publishing around the film. The response in Bristol and beyond has been extraordinary, so we thought we’d share the diverse thoughts we’ve heard thus far – and let you know there’s still time to get yours heard too.

Dr Edson Burton has been a key figure in our activity around Selma, and last week he kindly wrote this great piece on the film, explaining how it dismantles the many mythologies surrounding King and the civil rights era, and how its story is relevant today. Read it here – it’s a fitting introduction to the film and its historical background.

Ujima Radio’s Roger Griffith has also been a great ambassador for Selma. Thanks to Conversations About Cinema he was able to travel to our friends at Queens Film Theatre, Belfast, to introduce the film at a sell out screening. It was a profound experience for Roger, who said:

"It was a wonderful occasion speaking in Belfast. In my discussion I brought in themes that hark to Civil Rights in America and the commonalities of the Black British and Irish communities (who in the 1950s and 60s faced signs such as 'No Coloured, No Irish, No Dogs”. In the 70s and 80s the treatment by the authorities through internment in Ireland and the stop and search/SUS laws led to similar resentment on the streets - sparking the Troubles and riots on both side of the Irish Sea."

Back here in Bristol we’ve put on a host of introductions, and captured audience reactions in vox pops after the screenings. From current debates in America, to issues affecting us closer to home, hear from a range of people about the issues and debates Selma raised for them:

Last night (Tue 10 Feb) Roger and Edson joined forces with Madge Dresser, Professor of History at the University of the West of England, to lead a Twitter chat on Selma, which you can read below.

Paper and pen was the weapon of choice for many of Watershed’s audience in the building – the full Flickr album is here but we’ve included a couple of the comments here too:

And Twitter was full of Watershed audience members reflecting on the film:

Selma continues until at least Thu 19 Feb, and there are still many ways for you to get involved. After you see it, ask yourself: how much has Dr. King achieved, and how much have we advanced? Does its message resonate today? We want to hear what you have to say and share your contributions.

Roger and Edson will be here in person at two different events related to Selma. Edson is leading The Fire This Time, a panel discussion on Sun 15 Feb at 15:00 which will look at the topic of ‘closure’ in cinematic depictions of Civil Rights, while Roger reflects on his experiences travelling America (he even participated in a restaging of the Selma march) and the impact of Black-Britons in the UK in My American Odyssey on Wed 18 Feb at 18:30.

Selma’s introductions continue with Dr Anthony Reddie, senior lecturer at Bristol Baptist college, at the Thu 12 Feb 18:00 screening, and Madge Dresser and Roger Griffith will be fronting the Mon 16 Feb 17:30 and Wed 18 Feb 20:30 screenings respectively.

Of course we’ll continue to keep your comments cards up on the noticeboard and listen to you on Twitter – just use #convocinema or @wshed to give us a heads up.

Want more food for thought? The Conversations About Cinema website is live and there’s lots of material there for you to watch, read, listen and share. It will be updated frequently so do check back for more – we want everyone, everywhere to join in.