Two enthusiastic thumbs up for the movie SELMA and the creative script that uses accent, aura, scripture, lyrics of gospel songs and original text instead of historic speeches. Before seeing the movie, SELMA, I read that the speeches given by Dr. King in the film were written by [the talented writer, producer, director and distributor] Ms. DuVernay and were not the historical speeches given by Dr. King.
Dr. King’s heirs did not grant permission for his speeches to be quoted in “Selma,” and while this may be a blow to the film’s authenticity, Ms. DuVernay turns it into an advantage, a chance to see and hear him afresh. Mr. Oyelowo, a British actor of Nigerian background, has mastered the Southern inflections and preacherly cadences that have become part of the permanent soundtrack of our educational system, and the script offers credible paraphrases of his character’s unmatched eloquence.
[–BRAVO, Ms. DuVernay, for turning this into an advantage].
It is not uncommon for permission to use famous copyrighted works, like Dr. King’s famous speeches, to be unattainable or denied. (Obtaining permission to use a famous copyrighted work is often cost prohibitive). Whatever the reason that permission to use a famous work is unattainable or denied, creating an original work is a brilliant solution. After seeing the movie SELMA this past weekend, I was impressed with the use of bible verses and gospel lyrics in Ms. DuVernay’s script. Bible verses and gospel lyrics are often in the public domain and free to use. Intermixing public domain material and original text in a movie script works. For example, Ms. DuVernay’s script uses the lyrics of the “Battle Hymn of The Republic” in a final scene with Dr. King. The lyrics of this old hymn (written in the 1860’s and now in the public domain) were a powerful, spoken finale.
“Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord…”
BY: Vanessa Kaster, Esq., LL.M.
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See also: An earlier blog post on Copyright Law & Dr. King’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech at http://wp.me/p10nNq-3R; Free tickets for 7th, 8th, and 9th grade students at http://selmastudenttickets.com; the SELMA website at www.selmamovie.com; www.paramount.com/movies/selma; www.avaduvernay.com/about; movie review by Kenny Miles at http://themovieblog.com/2015/ava-duvernays-masterful-selma-is-the-timely-movie-america-needs/; quote above is from the NY Times article titled, “A 50-Mile March, Nearly 50 Years Later. In ‘Selma,’ King Is Just One of Many Heros” by A.O. Scott on Dec. 24, 2014 available at www.nytimes.com; NY Times article titled, “The Man Who Would Be King. David Oyelowo’s Pivotal Role in ‘Selma’ by Felicia R. Leedec on Dec. 18, 2014 available at www.nytimes.com; information on the Battle Hymn of the Republic at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Battle_Hymn_of_the_Republic; NY Times article titled, “An Unsettled Chapter in Martin Luther King’s Legacy” by Richard Fausset on Jan. 12, 2015 at http://mobile.nytimes.com; Wikipedia photo credit at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Selma_to_Montgomery_marches; @iplegalfreebies and www.kasterlegal.com.