William Lovelace/Getty Images
Jeff Labrecque
June 20, 2014 AT 06:23 PM EDT

Selma, the Oprah Winfrey-produced historical drama about the landmark 1965 civil-rights march that was violently attacked by Alabama law-enforcement, will get a limited release on Dec. 25, 2014, before opening wide on Jan. 9, 2015.

David Oyelowo (The Butler) stars as Martin Luther King, Jr., who helped organize Selma’s voting-rights protests after many African-Americans were denied their right to register to vote. Winfrey will also appear as Annie Lee Cooper, “an elderly woman and visible leader amongst the civil rights protesters in Selma who tried to register to vote and was unfairly denied by the sheriff.”

The film will chronicle Dr. King’s struggle to get Washington to pass the Voting Right Act of 1965, with the bloody first Selma march playing a crucial role. On March 7, 1965, more than 500 protesters, led by future congressman John Lewis, set out from Selma to the Alabama state capital on Highway 80. When they crossed the Edmund Pettus Bridge, they were met by armed state troopers on horseback who fired tear gas and beat them. The horrifying images were plastered across the front pages and the evening news and helped generate support for the cause of civil rights.

The film is already in production in Atlanta and Montgomery and Selma, Alabama, with Ava DuVernay (Middle of Nowhere) directing.

The cast includes Tom Wilkinson as Lyndon Baines Johnson, Carmen Ejogo (Alex Cross) as Coretta Scott King, Alessandro Nivola, Dylan Baker as J. Edgar Hoover, Giovanni Ribisi as Lee White, Stephen Root, and Tim Roth as George Wallace.

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