Fruitvale Station (2013) — PICK

Selma (2014) — PICK

Christian faith plays a positive role in two memorable movies — both among my top 10 films of their years — about civil rights, police violence and the African American experience. The last time I wrote about Ryan Coogler’s Fruitvale Station was one year after Eric Garner was killed by an illicit police choke hold in 2014. The egregious recent killing of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer gives new relevance to the fact-based story of Oscar Grant III (Michael B. Jordan), who died, like Floyd, face down in police custody, killed by a bullet to the back in Oakland, California. The faith of Oscar’s mother (Octavia Spencer) is among the more striking recent Hollywood depictions of religion.

Faith is far more central in Ava DuVernay’s Selma, anchored by a brilliant performance by David Oyelowo (a devout Christian) as Martin Luther King Jr. — not only King’s own faith, but that of other clergy, Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant, who join his cause.

Offering a welcome corrective to the sanitized depiction of King as an uncontroversial unifier, Selma dramatizes just how provocative — and effective — his style of nonviolent activism was.


CAVEAT SPECTATOR:  Fruitvale Station: Police roughness and a fatal shooting; sensuality and a scene of sexuality (no nudity); brief nonsexual nudity; offensive language, including limited profanity. Mature viewing. Selma: Strong violence; references to marital infidelity and brief audio of bedroom sounds; offensive language, including limited profanity. Teens and up.