George C. Wolfe brings Bayard Rustin’s story to life, with a joyous performance by Colman Domingo as the activist who organized the 1963 March on Washington while being forced into the background because of his sexuality.
George C. Wolfe
Sixty years on, the March on Washington is remembered as the watershed point in civil rights history where Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech. There were many people who worked tirelessly behind the scenes to make that moment possible, with their efforts led by one important figure: Bayard Rustin. George C. Wolfe’s latest film tells Rustin’s story, as the activist who brought together an alliance of civil rights, labour, and religious organizations, while being forced into the background of the movement because of his sexuality.
An advisor and close friend to Dr. King, Rustin has a difficult time convincing the reluctant group of leaders that he can organize what would be one of the largest political rallies in American history. While pushing ahead, he’s reinvigorated by a burgeoning relationship. Afraid that his gay identity will harm the movement, members of the coalition start to take issue with Rustin being the face of the march and, wary of sparking a media scandal, he becomes torn between the needs of the cause and his personal life.
While that struggle weighs heavy, Colman Domingo (also at the Festival in Sing Sing) gives a joyous performance as Rustin. His rousing spirit and determination pull everyone together as we start to see history fall into place, piece by piece. Rustin’s story not only gives us insight into the mechanics of protest, but also serves as a crucial reminder that freedom doesn’t mean much if all of us can’t march towards it together.
Official Selection, 2023 Toronto International Film Festival
Content advisory: mature themes