Tag Archives: movie

‘Selma,’ Pride and History in the Flesh: ‘He’s My Congressman’

Selma, John Lewis, Oscar, Oscars, snub, controversy, LBJ, MLK, Martin Luther King, Lyndon Johnson, Edmund Pettis Bridge, Bloody Sunday, movie, Atlanta, Civil Rights

John Lewis was the youngest of the Big Six leaders, just 25 when the events of ‘Selma’ took place. He is portrayed in the film by Stephan James, right.

Oscar snubs and LBJ controversy aside, the movie “Selma” brims with examples of undeniable greatness. We Atlantans have special interest and pride, perhaps, with our singular connection to the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Civil Rights Era.

U.S. Rep. John Lewis is portrayed in the film as the brave and smart young man he was. He led that infamous Bloody Sunday march depicted in the film and almost paid with his life. Lewis has long been a hero for me and countless others here in Atlanta, known in the ’60s as The City Too Busy to Hate.

My friend Will Alford shared the following account on Facebook this week.

Selma, MLK, Martin Luther King, John Lewis, Bloody Sunday, Oscar, LBJ, controversy

Will Alford

Saw Selma last night…. In my trips from Atlanta to DC, I often see John Lewis and other congressmen in the airport and/or on flights. (I always take note of which ones accept the inevitable/eventual upgrade to first class that frequent fliers get). The best encounter was one time en route back to Atlanta — just a random week. After most of the plane had boarded, Rep. Lewis was making his way down the aisle to his seat in the back, and every single row stood as he passed in respect for him. Nobody else gets that kind of reaction. He was humble, sweet, patient… and spoke to every single person who reached out to him (like all politicians do). He seemed like some kind of holy man that day where everyone just wanted a touch. History in the flesh. I couldn’t stop myself from obnoxiously turning to my seatmate and bragging, “He’s my congressman.”

I’ve had the pleasure a few times myself, and it is a powerfully humbling experience just to meet Lewis. Thanks, Will, for letting me share your story.

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What to Leave In, What to Leave Out

Mandela, Long Walk to Freedom, movie, poster, Idris Elba

Mandela movie poster

When it comes to storytelling material, how much is too much?

We’ve all faced the question many times. And it’s not a bad problem, having tons of rich, compelling and relevant content. But it presents another series of questions about focus and editing.

“Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom” struggles to squeeze a magnificent (and long) life into a single film. Two lives, actually, since Nelson and Winnie Mandela’s stories are profoundly inextricable.

The movie covers decades of history, barely touching on many episodes and relationships that could have been given much more time. It goes for sweep, and delivers to an extent, in the old-fashioned Hollywood biopic way.

But is it too much? Would Mandela’s story have been better told by taking a more narrow approach? For instance, the one favored by “Invictus,” which told a specific episode from Mandela’s later years? Or maybe a longer approach – say, a TV miniseries?

It made me think of challenges I’ve faced working on corporate communications or mainstream media projects, either print, digital or some combination.  How much information to share with which stakeholders? How much background? How many examples? Here are a few things I try to keep in mind.

5 Things to Consider

1. Brevity’s hard. Mark Twain once wrote, “Hello, my dear friend. Forgive me for writing such a long letter, but I didn’t have time to write a short one.”

2. What’s your main purpose in telling your story?

3. What can be pulled out for a sidebar or later update?

4. What’s the best channel for your story and any other components?

5. Kill your babies. Shake the tree. If it doesn’t really have to be there, then it doesn’t deserve to be there.

One last question: Why aren’t the stars of “Mandela,” the spectacular Idris Elba and Naomie Harris, in more movies? Hollywood – hello?

My Photos from Robben Island; Video of Mandela’s Cell

Nelson Mandela was held on Robben Island for 18 of the 27 years he spent imprisoned. For hundreds of years, the island off Cape Town was used to hold mental patients, lepers and political prisoners like Mandela and others who fought apartheid. I recently visited South Africa and toured the notorious facility. Here are a few pics and a video of Mandela’s cell that I took with my iPhone.