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Before ‘Selma’ There Was ‘Selma, Lord, Selma’

Before 'Selma' There Was 'Selma, Lord, Selma'

Before “12
Years A Slave,” there was “Solomon Northrup’s Odyssey.” Before “Red Tails” there was “The Tuskegee Airman.” So it shouldn’t be a surprise that before Ava DuVernay’s “Selma” hits the screen on Christmas Day, there was also another film
about that momentous event in Alabama in 1965, which changed the course of the Civil
Rights Movement and America as well.

I’m talking
about “Selma, Lord, Selma,” an ABC TV movie which aired on the network in January 1999, produced by Walt Disney Television, and directed by the great African-American
filmmaker Charles Burnett.

Since there
is no one way to tell a story, both films take entirely different approaches, with DuVarnay’s film, judging from its trailer, going for a near epic, broader
canvas, with a huge cast of well known actors; while “Selma, Lord, Selma,” was a
TV movie – and a Chales Burnett film especially – smaller in scale, more
intimate and personal.

It tells the
story of the Selma to Montgomery march, from the viewpoint of an 11-year-old girl Sheyann Webb (Jurnee Smollett), who is inspired to do something to affect change, when she hears Martin Luther King Jr (Clifton Powell) speak at her church in Selma.

Along with
her friend, Rachel West (Stephanie Zandra Peyton), they both get involved with
the Movement and the march, despite their parents’ increasing worry and

The film,
which was based on the book, “Selma, Lord, Selma: Girlhood Memories of the
Civil Rights Days,” written by Webb and West, recounting their experiences during
that period, is a powerful film that has sadly been forgotten, but hopefully
all the interest in DuVernay’s film lead to its rediscovery.

It is
available on DVD, and might be on Netflix or other VOD outlets. If not now, I wouldn’t
be surprised if it does start showing up soon, if only to capitalize on DuVernay’s film.
But you should definitely search for it. It’s worth it.

Here are
some clips from the film:

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