Selma, Lord, Selma

Charles Burnett directed this 1998 TV docudrama for the Disney Channel, about the emotionally charged 1965 voter registration drive Martin Luther King led in Selma, Alabama, just before the Selma-to-Montgomery march. Despite the sincerity of the project and some touching moments, this doesn’t measure up to the marvelous Nightjohn (1996), an earlier Disney feature directed by Burnett. The script (adapted by Cynthia Whitcomb from a childhood memoir by Sheyann Webb and Rachel West Nelson, as told to Frank Sikora) is too pedestrian, though it does have the virtue of contextualizing some of the major events that led to the famous march. Presumably because of clearance problems, James Reeb, the white Unitarian minister from the north who was clubbed to death while working on voter registration, has been turned into a white priest in training named Jonathan Daniels (MacKenzie Astin), who is shota change that leads to some confusion at the end, when a printed title informs us that Daniels was eventually canonized. With Jurnee Smollett and Clifton Powell (as King). (JR)

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