Story

Selma is a historical drama based on Martin Luther King’s campaign for voting rights through the march from Selma to Montgomery in Alabama in 1965. The movie is about the people involved in these social changes and how their fight for civil rights affects their personal lives. 

The movie begins as Martin Luther King (David Oyelowo) accepts his Nobel Peace Prize, after which four girls are killed in an explosion in a church. The movie then shows African-American citizens in Selma trying to vote and being turned away. King approaches President Lyndon Johnson (Tom Wilkinson) to ask for the law to be changed so that all American citizens can vote. But FBI director J. Edgar Hoover (Dylan Baker) believes that King is becoming a problem and encourages the President to disrupt King’s marriage.

There are numerous protests before the Selma-to-Montgomery march, and all end with police clashing with protestors. When the Selma march finally begins, state troopers wearing gas masks use various weapons against the marchers. When the marchers finally reach Montgomery, King delivers his famous speech on the steps of the State Capitol and states that equality for all citizens of America is fast approaching. 

Themes

Racism; civil rights; riots and protests; friendship and family; sacrifice

Violence

Selma has some violence. For example:

  • There are many scenes in which marchers and police engage in violent behaviour. Police use batons and tear gas to stop protestors. The police beat protestors severely, until the protestors bleed and have trouble walking. Southern segregationists terrorise the marchers. 
  • A church is blown up, resulting in the deaths of four girls. A clergyman is also beaten to death.
  • People refer to murders, including those of Robert Kennedy and Malcom X.
 

Content that may disturb children

Under 8
Children in this age group are likely to be disturbed by the scenes in Selma that show intense violence during the protests and the march.

    From 8-13
    Children in this age group are also likely to be scared by the scenes of intense violence mentioned above.

    Over 13
    Younger children in this age group are also likely to be scared by the scenes of intense violence mentioned above.

    Sexual references

    Selma has some sexual references. For example, Coretta and Martin have a conversation about Martin’s infidelity.

      Alcohol, drugs and other substances

      None of concern

      Nudity and sexual activity

      Selma has some sexual activity. For example:

      • Several couples embrace and kiss.
      • Coretta King listens to a recording of two people having sex. She believes the man on the recording is her husband, Martin.

      Product placement

      None of concern

      Coarse language

      Selma has some coarse language and some racial slurs and racist language.

      Ideas to discuss with your children

      Selma is an inspiring dramatisation of the historical events that led up to the 1965 Selma-to-Montgomery civil rights march. The movie offers a perspective on the challenges faced by the anti-segregationists in America during this period, as well as the changes that occurred as a result of their protests. 

      Selma presents people as human, with flaws as well as strengths. For example, the movie explores Martin Luther King’s infidelity as well as his great civil rights achievements. The movie also highlights the strength and capacity of the human spirit to overcome even the most difficult obstacles. 

      Because of its themes and scenes of intense violence, Selma isn’t suitable for children under 15 years, but it is a valuable discussion starter for older teenagers. 

      Issues that you could discuss with older children include:

      • being prepared to protest and stand up for your beliefs
      • achieving goals and sending messages through means other than violence 
      • accepting people’s flaws and mistakes, and judging people on the way they make up for their mistakes
      • treating people equally, and understanding the devastating impact that racism has on society and individuals.