The upcoming release of "Selma," against the backdrop of ongoing protests and outrage over the deaths of Eric Garner and Michael Brown, is no coincidence, Oprah Winfrey tells TODAY's Al Roker.
“Films with a historical bent have, I think, an obligation to allow people to see the essence of the truth,” explained Winfrey, who both stars and produces the film.
“Selma” narrates the efforts by Martin Luther King and other civil rights leaders to march peacefully from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama. It also chronicles the group’s efforts leading up to the passage of the 1965 Voting Rights Act.
Winfrey said the film makes many points still relevant today:
- Its overarching message: "It allows people to see that there was a strategy, there was a clear intention, and there was leadership. And that people weren't just out there willy-nilly on those Freedom Rides. They weren't just out there marching in the streets, throwing things, and venting their anger. That there was controlled, rigorous discipline.”
- The advice it gives people protesting the deaths of Garner and Brown: "I think it's wonderful what we're seeing in terms of peaceful demonstrations," she said, but "I think what those peaceful demonstrations need is leadership and intention. Like, we're demonstrating to get what? These are our demands for what? I haven't seen, now, a clear leader emerging."
- On how widespread the "I Can't Breathe" movement will become: “Just like in Selma, once it was just about voting rights, it was a black problem. And then after Bloody Sunday, it became America's problem. The same thing happened in our county with Eric Garner. And everyone saw on film what happened to Mr. Garner. There were people of all races who said, 'This is wrong. We have to do something about this.'"
Selma opens on Christmas Day.
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