The man
being beaten in the picture above is John Lewis. He was a Civil Rights
leader, and this moment in time comes from the bloody first Selma to
Montgomery march in 1965.

On Saturday John Lewis, now a
Congressman from Georgia, was met
by anti-health care reform protesters – Tea Baggers – who chanted
‘Nigger’ at him.
five years after being brutalized because of his simple desire for
equality, Lewis is a lawmaker. But he’s also still being confronted by
groups of ignorant bigots. This country has come very far, but it keeps
feeling like we’ve turned the corner and ended up right where we
started. Hate and regressive politics boil up everywhere around us. The
election of a black man to the presidency seems to have set off a switch
in the brains of some very already unstable people.

Lewis might very well be a character in Selma, the Civil Rights drama that
Oscar-nominated Precious director Lee Daniels is casting
right now. He’s got Hugh Jackman as a racist sheriff, and he just cast
Brit actor David Oyelowo (soon to be seen in Red Tails) as Martin Luther King Jr. But
he’s also got some financing problems, which is a shame because all of a
sudden what seemed to be an Oscar-grabbing nostalgia piece has become
very timely indeed. And I suspect that between now and the film’s
scheduled start date in a couple of months, the eerie racial deja vu is
just going to get more and more intense.

Selma has been a passion project for
Daniels for a while, and I’m hoping it’s not just because it’s a way of
getting another ticket to the Kodak Theater. I hope the movie is good
because we’ve hit a point in history where maybe we’ve forgotten the
hard-learned lessons. Societies have to be reminded every few
generations of some basic, fundamental truths, and racial equality and
tolerance could be a subject in which we need a refresher course. That
would make a well done film about King and about the most turbulent and
difficult moments of the Civil Rights struggle more than a prestige
picture, it would be the right film at the right time. I don’t know that
the quality could ever be comparable, but Schindler’s List is
an example of a movie that came to theaters right when it needed to,
helping teach new generations harsh truths that can’t come across in a

I have this crazy belief that movies matter. They matter on a personal
level – great films impact the viewer and change them, even in ways the
viewer doesn’t even notice. Cinema is an invasive art form, one that
gets right inside of you and that’s why it remains so powerful for
propaganda, and it’s why so many demagogues still fear it. The internet
can get facts and opinions all over the place at the speed of light, but
it can’t get truth across
the same way a really well-made film can. Maybe Selma‘s going to be one of those films
that gets that truth across. I’m going to be rooting for it.