SELMA – 5 stars
I just found the book that John Lewis signed for me a few years ago at the unforgettable Parish Gallery in Georgetown. I was going to say that it was about 4 or 5 years ago, but like everything else we remember as we get older, it was longer – 11/17/06. “To Ronn. Keep the Faith. John Lewis.” He had just told the story of his walk besides Martin Luther King on the Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama. It was stirring to stand 10 feet away and listen to Congressman Lewis – he has one of those voices where he could read the phone book and you’d be riveted. But this story…
Slow forward 8 years, 1 month and 9 days – slow because it has taken too long to bring this great story to the screen – and I was riveted again, this time by a young John Lewis, portrayed beautifully by Stephan James, driving with King in one of the many amazing scenes in Selma. From the beginning, with King meeting with Lyndon Johnson, to the end, Common rapping over the credits, we are enraptured with the scenes that led to the march from Selma to Montgomery.
Every scene is beautifully framed by director Ava Duvernay. Nothing is overdone. We don’t need to see J Edgar Hoover’s dresses to realize he is Satan, or hear the actual King speeches. The filmmakers did not get the rights to the speeches, so screenwriter Paul Webb – amazingly, this is his first original script at 60 years old (he rewrote Lincoln for Spielberg) – paraphrased and made the characters real. There should be many Oscar nominations here – and victories.
Oh, that book’s title is John Lewis in the Lead: A Story of the Civil Rights Movement. It’s a children’s book with haunting illustrations by Benny Andrews – they were on view that night. I’m so glad I bought it. I spent so many wonderful Friday evenings at Parish Gallery. I miss Mr. Parish every time I pass by.