(Since this post deals as much as with history as with a review I am putting it here instead of on my film blog http://www.rgdinmalaysia4film.blogspot.com/ )
Saw SELMA and it was even worse than I thought from reading about its numerous inaccuracies. Many of the scenes (all of the ones with LBJ) are complete fiction. It’s a dishonest, lazy, shoddy piece of filmmaking that twists real events to no good end as the real story is much more powerful and meaningful. The director has admitted he doesn’t care about history only about story. What an asshole! I hope LBJ’s family sues him for slander....In particular....
1.) Wiretaps on MLK started during JFK’s administration not during LBJ’s which is the movie’s version. The FBI under the maniacal racist Hoover during this time operated on its own authority and continued bugging MLK even after JFK’s death. When LBJ found about the extent of what Hoover did, he ended this.
2.) The decision to send MLK’s wife a tape of him with another woman was not LBJ’S. That was pure Hoover and there’s no proof LBJ ever heard or knew of this recording. That is just an ugly mistruth presented on screen – Inexcusable. JFK got a kick out of listening to it though supposedly
3.) Telephone transcripts show Johnson pushing the voting Rights Act and in perfect agreement with King much of the time. In fact, LBJ sound more like the radical urging King to keep the pressure on through demonstration on while he applies pressure at his end through Congress and even on business leaders.
4.) There is no proof Johnson wanted to put off the Voting Rights Act in order to deal with the War on Poverty – A major contention of the film. He was not a weak president like Obama and could have easily handled both (and did). No one associated with the Johnson administration backs up this fiction.
5.) Johnson considered the Voting Rights Act one of his greatest achievements. You wouldn’t get that feeling from this movie. The LBJ in the movie is weak and indecisive and panicky nothing like the real Johnson who was incredibly full of himself as every biography and everyone who knew him points out.
6.) The legal decision by a judge that paved the way for the third and most successful Selma march was not a result of pressure by the civil rights movement. It was the Johnson Administration that made the final push for this (In the film you are led to believe MLK was completely responsible for this)
7.) In general, MLK and LBJ had a decent relationship which the taped telephone calls show. Their relationship was well documented. The movie is nothing like the reality. Johnson threatening King is laughable.
8.) In addition to LBJ, the film gets a few kicks in at Malcom X’s expense as well. I understand the MLK vs. Malcolm X thing. Guess I’m more of a Malcolm X guy as he had a global view of the struggle for justice. King took longer to grasp that.
9.) The film seems to be saying that MK never had any extramarital sexual relationships. Better not to discuss the issue at all then to lie. Even his closest aides like Joseph Lowery have said he hooked up with women. It doesn’t diminish his legacy but lying about it in a movie does.
Overall, this is like a glossy made for TV movie. An Oprah Winfrey vanity project (She produced it and appears in a reoccurring role, a fictional character, as a woman attempting to vote). Like everything else she touches, it’s garbage.
The scenes of violence, crowd scenes are competently handled and there is an attempt to link stopping black people from voting and police violence to ongoing issues today. I think that was the director’s intent. I just wished he hadn’t twisted history to do it as it ruins the whole film
And let me state again, the treatment of LBJ is shameful.
Also the actor who plays MLK looks nothing like him and Tim Roth as George Wallace? Hahahahahahah - One of the worst miscastings in history.