The trailer for the upcoming Martin Luther King, Jr. biopic Selma promises a film that won’t just be sentimental Oscar-bait. While it hits some familiar biopic beats, the trailer’s use of Public Enemy’s “Say It Like It Really Is” hints at the film’s true revolutionary spirit. Director Ava DuVernay’s previous projects have been praised by Roger Ebert and the Sundance Film Festival, where she became the first black director to win the Best Director Award, and now she’s bringing her unique voice to Selma.
Much like Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln explored the 16th President by examining just a few months of his life, Selma uses a similarly narrow time period to capture Dr. King. The film documents a three-month period in 1965 when King campaigned for equal voting rights by leading three massive protest marches down a 54-mile highway from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama. Images of the brutality committed on the first march, referred to as “Bloody Sunday,” helped turn the tides of public opinion against the segregationist movement. The protests also inspired President Lyndon B. Johnson to sign the landmark Voting Rights Act of 1965, which prohibits racial discrimination in voting (a portion of which was struck down by the Supreme Court in 2013).
The film stars a trio of British actors as the American leaders involved in the political firestorm. David Oyelowo (The Butler, Lincoln) will play Dr. King, Tom Wilkinson (Michael Clayton) steps into the role of LBJ, and Tim Roth (Reservoir Dogs, Rob Roy) will portray Alabama governor George Wallace. The film’s massive cast also includes Cuba Gooding Jr., Oprah Winfrey, Common, Carmen Ejogo, Tessa Thompson, and Giovanni Ribisi.
Selma opens in limited release December 25 before expanding on January 9, 2015.