Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.), who helped lead the 1965 voting rights march in Selma, Ala., that became known as “Bloody Sunday,” said Ava DuVernay’s new movie “Selma” is “long overdue.”
“The movie is good timing with what is going on in Ferguson, and I was so pleased to see in the movie there was a mention of Ferguson,” Lewis said in an interview on Variety‘s “PopPolitics” on SiriusXM. “It was said to another generation, and maybe future generations, that through the peaceful non-violent action you can bring about change.”
The movie “Selma” opens in limited release on Dec. 25, but Lewis saw it several weeks ago at a special screening hosted by Oprah Winfrey, who is producer and plays Annie Lee Cooper in the movie.
On March 7, 1965, Lewis was seriously injured when he was struck by a state trooper as he and Hosea Williams led the first attempt at a march from Selma to Montgomery. They were stopped at the Edmund Pettus Bridge as authorities attacked the assembly in an incident that galvanized public opinion and pressured President Lyndon Johnson to introduce the Voting Rights Act.
In the movie, Lewis and Williams lead the marchers across the bridge, only to be stopped as they see a flank of state troopers, holding billy clubs and other weapons, blocking their way on the other side of the Alabama River. Williams asks Lewis, “Can you swim?”
Lewis says that is what actually happened at that moment.
“Even today I don’t know how to swim … But as we cross the bridge on Bloody Sunday, I think Hosea thought there was a possibility we could be going overboard, or something could happen that we could jump in the water. But I preferred taking my chances by just walking straight ahead, and that is what I did.”
Of watching the movie’s re-creation of the Bloody Sunday march, Lewis says, “It was not just hard to go back there [and watch it on screen], but [it was hard] seeing, reliving what happened to the women and children, and hearing people crying out for help. I thought the movie did a good job in capturing the essence of what happened and how it happened … It was long overdue. It was time for it to be on the bigscreen.”
The accuracy of the movie was so exact, Lewis says, that he wants to tell the actor who played him, Stephan James, that “I want my backpack, I want my trenchcoat.” That’s because Lewis is preparing to go to Selma in March for the 50th anniversary commemoration.
Listen to the interview below:
On The Mix, journalist and USC instructor Mary Murphy and U.S. News’ Nikki Schwab talk about the hacking attack on Sony, and what it means for controversial content if a cyber-threat can be enough to halt the release of a movie. The decision to pull the movie was criticized by President Obama as a “mistake,” while Sony says it was left with no other choice after exhibitors bailed out.
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As “The Colbert Report” signed off, James Andrew Miller, the co-author of “Live From New York,” talks about how “Saturday Night Live” led the way when it came to engaging politicians in political satire. It started when President Gerald R. Ford appeared on the show in a 1975 cameo, and has continued with Sarah Palin’s appearance in 2008 along with Tina Fey, whose spot on portrayal won her an Emmy. As most recent presidential election campaigns showed, candidates have had a lot to gain by appearing on the show, even if its satire can sting.
“PopPolitics,” hosted by Variety’s Ted Johnson, airs Thursdays at 11 a.m. PT on SiriusXM’s political channel POTUS 124.