Oprah Winfrey reunites with The Butler co-star David Oyelowo in Selma, a biopic about the late Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. that contains scenes that may seem chillingly familiar to many viewers following recent current events.
The first trailer for the movie, directed by Ava DuVernay and co-produced by Winfrey (and Brad Pitt), was released on Thursday. Oyelowo, a British actor, played Oprah's son in The Butler. In Selma, he plays King, one of the most famous American civil rights leaders in history. Winfrey plays one of his supporters.
King helped spearhead the nation's civil rights movement, which aimed to end racial segregation and discrimination. King, who supported nonviolent civil disobedience, was assassinated at age 39 on April 4, 1968. The trailer shows King meeting with the U.S. president amid ongoing protests and violence in the South. He tells him, "Mr. President, in the South there have been thousands of racially-motivated murders. We need your help!"
King, a Baptist minister, is also shown speaking to churchgoers. Donning glasses, Oprah is seen among the crowd.
"It is unacceptable that they use their power and keep us voiceless!" King says, drawing applause. "Those that have gone before us say, 'No more!'"
King is also seen using a loudspeaker and calling on supporters to march and stand up for their cause. Scores of protesters are seen walking on a giant bridge, while clashes between demonstrators and police are shown.
King is famous for his "I Have a Dream" speech that he delivered at the 1963 March on Washington, which he helped organize. Selma focuses on three additional civil rights protest marches that all took place in March 1965 and ran 50 miles, from Selma, Alabama to the state capitol of Montgomery, and paved the way for the passing of the historic Voting Rights Act that year.
The first Selma-Montgomery march took place on March 7, 1965 and aimed to promote African-American voter registration and to protest the killing of a young black man, Jimmie Lee Jackson, by a state trooper. The march was dubbed "Bloody Sunday."
Using tear gas, nightsticks and whips, police attacked more than 500 demonstrators, injuring 57, The New York Times reported at the time. The newspaper said the protesters, who only made it several blocks on the highway to reach the Edmund Pettus Bridge, "reportedly fought back with bricks and bottles at one point as they were pushed back into the [black] community, far away from most of a squad of reporters and photographers who had been restrained by the officers."
Winfrey's character takes part in the march.
In the Selma trailer, Winfrey's character is seen struggling with a police officer and being restrained on the ground.
Two days later, on what's known as "Turnaround Tuesday," King helped lead a second march to just the bridge, where he led participants in prayer. On March 21, following a court ruling in favor of the protestors, the third march was held and demonstrators, who grew from about 8,000 to 25,000 in numbers, reached the capitol.
Millions of people watched TV coverage and saw horrific photos of the violence. This past summer, scores of viewers around the world watched shocking videos of violent confrontations between authorities and protesters in Ferguson, Missouri, during demonstrations held over the Aug. 9 killing of an unarmed black teenager.
The violence—and media attention—has since subsided but racially charged tension remained. In October, hundreds of people took part in a demonstration, singing "We Shall Overcome," an anthem of the civil rights movement, the Reuters news wire reported.
Selma also stars Cuba Gooding Jr., Tim Roth, Giovanni Ribisi and Orange Is the New Black alum Lorraine Toussaint. The movie will first hit select theaters on Dec. 25, making it eligible for a 2015 Oscar nomination, and then have a wider release on Jan. 9.