Perhaps Shonda Rimes referred to the wrong interracial relationship in last week’s Scandal. For the sexual/romantic agency–as problematic as it is–that both Olivia Pope and President Fitz Grant do exercise, they’re probably closer to the Richard and Mildred Loving than Sally Hemmings and Thomas Jefferson.
If you’re in the New York City area, please join the post-showing chat about the new documentary, The Loving Story, on the couple and their Supreme Court case this Sunday, December 16, at Maysles Cinema, located at 343 Malcolm X Blvd./Lenox Ave (between 127th and 128th Streets). The movie starts at 7:30PM; the discussion, moderated by the R’s Associate Editor Andrea Plaid (who, in full disclosure, also works as the Maysles Institute’s Social Media Fellow), will start about 8:45PM.
This is what critics say about the film…
From Film School Rejects:
If you wrote an original romantic screenplay called The Loving Story and the main characters were named Mildred and Richard Loving, that’d seem pretty cheesy. But there’s nothing bogus about the “epunymous” title of an incredibly essential documentary focused on the story of the Lovings, an interracial couple whose union in 1958 led to their arrest and conviction and exile from their home state of Virginia. Eventually their case led to the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in favor of mixed-race marriages nationwide, abolishing bans existing at the time in 16 states. The landmark decision took nearly a decade and is one of the most important civil rights triumphs in history. It’s also quite relevant today with the issue of same-sex marriage.
Nancy Buirski‘s film doesn’t directly make the link between then and now (though she does in a statement in the film’s press materials), even though Mildred had, until her death, been supportive of gay marriage campaigns and cases referencing herself and Richard via citations of the precedent set forth with Loving v. Virginia. It’s not necessary because we will make the obvious connection ourselves, and it wouldn’t be totally fair to the monumental achievements of half a century ago to impose the parallel. While civil rights histories shall always have unspoken ties to ongoing civil rights struggles, they also have significance of their own without the contemporary context. And The Loving Story is very much a film situated in the past, entirely concerned with the Lovings, their lawyers and what occurred between the moment the couple said, “I do,” and the moment Chief Justice Earl Warren wrote, “Under our Constitution, the freedom to marry, or not marry, a person of another race resides with the individual and cannot be infringed by the State.”
Buirski counters the chance of their remaining mere names in the history and law books by filling her documentary with an extraordinary amount of real-time material of the subjects courtesy of never-before-seen verite film shot from 1965 on by Hope Ryden, one of the direct cinema pioneers (she was then a member of Drew Associates, along with such legends as Robert Drew, D.A. Pennebaker, Ricky Leacock, James Lipscomb and Albert Maysles), and cinematographer Abbot Mills. In exceptionally preserved, absolutely beautiful black and white and color footage, we watch the everyday lives of the Lovings and get to hear from them (mostly from the more candid Mildred) while their story plays out. Photographs taken by Grey Villet for a LIFE magazine story on the couple also contribute remarkably towards the transportation of the audience to the era, while audio from the Supreme Court proceedings fill out to fully engross us in the narrative.
From The Independent Critic:
With a refreshingly straightforward yet effective approach,The Loving Story tells the story of Richard and Mildred Loving. The Lovings were the couple at the center of the landmark 1967 Supreme Court decision, Loving vs. Virginia, that outlawed anti-miscegenation laws in the United States.
Utilizing a wealth of archival footage, mostly in black-and-white, and interspersed with mostly traditional “talking head” interviews, The Loving Story is both an emotionally satisfying and intellectually stimulating 77-minute short that will likely resonate deeply with those for whom civil rights remains a deep interest and, especially, those for whom the “right to marry” remains a fundamental concern.
From Shadow And Act:
Wisely, the filmmaker stays completely out of the picture, allowing the abundance of archival footage to tell the story, resulting in what we could call a verite-style documentary. And it’s thanks to the wonderful black and white civil rights era footage (some never seen publicly before – primarily centered on the couple’s interpersonal relationship, really contrasting the absurdity of anti-miscegenation laws), plus photographs and interviews, that makes Buirski’s documentary a deeply-felt, compelling human portrait of this seemingly average, yet remarkable couple – especially when framed in the context of the turbulent era during which their story takes place.
The Loving Story works wonderfully as a poignant reminder of this country’s racist past, told from a uniquely personal point-of-view. At the very least, it should encourage audiences to want to learn even more about the couple, their stories (individual and together) and the case they were at the center of.
For more info and tickets, check here. But if you want to win two free tickets to Sunday’s showing and discussion, answer the following question:
Loving v. Virginia helped overturn the US Supreme Court’s ruling Pace v. Alabama. What was the charge the Alabama authorities brought against Tony Pace and his wife Mary Cox? And what was the other case that help overturn Pace v. Alabama?
Please send your answers to firstname.lastname@example.org. The first person to answer the question will get the tickets.
Hope to see you at Maysles Cinema this Sunday!