Rustin (PG-13) ★★★★

Returning to the civil rights march in Washington D.C. in 1963, director George C. “Rustin” boasts an embodied performance by Coleman Domingo as Bayard Rustin, the openly gay civil rights activist who orchestrated the famous march against racism. I screened the biographical drama film last August during the Telluride Film Festival. The Netflix film was shown at the Palm Theater; it presents the obstacles of the time with an all-star cast including Chris Rock, CCH Pounder, Gus Halper, Glynn Turman, Aml Ameen, and Jeffrey Wright. Thoroughly engaging, this historical recreation brings us to a time of extreme prejudice against Black people and those who were openly gay.

One can’t help but be moved by the strong performances and the direction of the seasoned George C. Wolfe. The Q&A afterward was hosted by Clayton Davis with producers Bruce Cohen and Tonia Davis producers and director Wolfe. The main takeaway was a quote by Wolfe: “Bayard Rustin inspired me to be a better version of myself.”

Bayard Rustin, a civil rights activist and close adviser to Martin Luther King, orchestrated the 1963 civil rights march in Washington, D.C. Although openly gay, he stayed out of the limelight. I met and interviewed Coleman Domingo this past December at a Critics Choice Awards red carpet press line event. He told me he was thrilled to be playing a person that historians tried to erase and that we all can learn from Rustin’s energy and determination to end discrimination.

The script is written by Julian Brēēce and Dustin Lance Black, telling the story of over 200,000 people who gathered in front of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., on August 23, 1963, calling for an end to racial discrimination in the USA. Martin Luther King gave his famous “I Have a Dream” speech, and the singer and actor Da’Vine Joy Randolph portrayed Mahalia Jackson. Martin Luther King asked her to sing “I’ve Been ‘Buked and I’ve Been Scorned” and “How I Got Over.”

I’m all in on the film, as the historical reenactment of the march is wonderful to view. Coleman’s performance is one of the best this year. Other outstanding performances are shown in Chris Rock and Jeffery Wright. I highly recommend seeing it, especially for teens and adults.

Sarah Knight Adamson© January 21, 2024