Moved by a speech given by Martin Luther King at her church, Sheyann Webb (Jurnee Smollett) and best friend Rachel West (Stephanie Zandra Peyton) join the Civil Rights Movement while still in grade school. Sheyann tries to motivate her father to do likewise, but he doesn't believe in rocking the boat. When a caucasian Northern minister, Jonathan Daniels (Mackenzie Astin) travels South to register Black voters, he stays with the West family and bonds with both young girls. As the sheriff undermines the activists' work, the road to equality includes detours into prison and worse. Jimmy Lee Jackson (Zach Rogers) is killed during a protest and Reverend Daniels is gunned down by a bigot after he leaves jail. Although tear gas wrecks another demonstration, the groundswell of change rises up after Lyndon Johnson encourages the passage of the Civil Rights Bill. Flanked by her proud papa, Sheyan joins the March 21,1965 march on Selma, Alabama. Although equally well intentioned, this flat historical docudrama isn't nearly as compelling as RUBY BRIDGES. Based on Webb and West's joint childhood memoir and heralded as an eyewitness account of the Civil Rights struggle, this preachy lecture skims over sociopolitical events "Dateline"-style without establishing a vivid personal context. With its talking-heads presentation and (apart from a mealy-mouthed Astin) competent but unmemorable performances, SELMA never moves us as it should. As a simplistic civics lesson for youngsters, it's commendable; as a meaningful evocation of the sacrifices made in the service of freedom, it falls short.
Cast & Details See all »
- Released: 1999
- Rating: PG
- Review: Moved by a speech given by Martin Luther King at her church, Sheyann Webb (Jurnee Smollett) and best friend Rachel West (Stephanie Zandra Peyton) join the Civil Rights Movement while still in grade school. Sheyann tries to motivate her father to do likewi… (more)