"What I think is so divine and beautiful about Selma coming out at this time is that it shows this isn't new," Oyelowo said in an interview with PEOPLE magazine.
The saying "history repeats itself" rings no truer than it does right now.
The highly anticipated Selma, which tells the story of Dr. Martin Luther King's voting rights march from Selma to Montgomery, mirrors the passionate protests that have been flaring up around the country following the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner.
Two of the film's biggest stars, David Oyelowo and Oprah Winfrey, recently spoke to PEOPLE magazine about the relevance of the film to today's situation.
"What I think is so divine and beautiful about Selma coming out at this time is that A., it shows this isn't new. We've had this before. And there are very direct parallels," said Oyelowo, who plays Dr. King in the film. "Ferguson, I feel when it initially happened, it felt like it was a Black problem. When we saw the footage of Eric Garner, it became an American problem."
He compares the transition to the 1965 Selma march. He said that originally, the lack of voting rights for Black people was solely a Black problem. However, after the rest of the country saw the violent attacks on demonstrators from Alabama state troopers in what has come to be known as Bloody Sunday, it became an American problem, he said.
Winfrey agreed, commending the thousands of people who have taken to the streets to demand racial justice.
She said, though, that she hopes to see a leader emerge.
"[Selma] marches weren't just happening haphazardly. They were happening out of an order and a design for change," she said. "What I'm looking for is some kind of leadership to come out of this to say, 'This is what we want. This is what has to change, and these are the steps that we need to take to make these changes, and this is what we're willing to do to get it.'"
Selma opens in theaters everywhere next Friday.