Fear and joy as Alabama town readies for screenings of film 'Selma'

Sat Jan 3, 2015 7:13am EST
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By Jonathan Kaminsky

(Reuters) - Residents of Selma, Alabama, will next week be offered free screenings of "Selma," a Golden Globe-nominated film some locals welcome as the telling of an important civil rights-era story while others fear it could harm the downtrodden city's image.

The film, which portrays events surrounding civil rights protests in the town in 1965 led by Martin Luther King Jr., will be shown courtesy of Paramount Pictures starting Jan. 9 and run through the month at the Selma Walton Theater.

Starring David Oyelowo as King, the film has generated Oscar buzz but also accusations of historical inaccuracy around the role of then-President Lyndon Johnson, a civil rights proponent who is depicted opposing the marches.

It has also stirred passions in Selma. The town has about 20,000 people, roughly 80 percent of whom are black and more than 40 percent of whom live in poverty, according to census figures.

U.S. Representative Terri Sewell, a black Democrat and Selma native, said the film is both an opportunity for the town to attract attention and business and to memorialize its key role in the civil rights struggle.

"It's important for us to tell this story," she said.

Alston Keith Jr., a lifelong Selma resident who was preparing for law school at the time of the protests, says he worries the film will overstate the violence, which he says was more sporadic than how it was reported at the time.

"I don't know if the movie is going to help Selma's image the way it will be portrayed," said Keith, who is white.   Continued...

Cast member David Oyelowo, who plays the role of civil rights leader Dr Martin Luther King, arrives during a gala event for the film "Selma" in Goleta, California in a December 6, 2014 file photo.  REUTERS/Phil Klein/files