Over a week has passed since we called “time” on the 2011 Tribeca Film Festival. My participation in the 2011 this year included my usual volunteer activities, but was punctuated by my seeing the documentary, The Loving Story on Monday, April 25th. From the opening musical sequence (“Going Home,” a song based on Dvořák’s Largo theme/9th Symphony – one of my all-time favorite melodies, no less), The Loving Story had me.
In this beautiful song, we are provided with the perfect context for the narrative thread of the documentary – an practically unknown chapter in the fight for civil rights, a fight that the Lovings waged in the mid-1960s; a fight that ultimately went to the Supreme Court of the United States of America in 1967. At the center of the fight is a happily married couple, one black, one white – who simply wanted live in their home state of Virginia as a family.
My first exposure to the story of Richard and Mildred Loving was about 15 years ago when a feature film, Mr. and Mrs. Loving was released, featuring Timothy Hutton and Lela Rochon in the title roles.
What the documentary does that the feature film could not is provide is a greater sense of place, grounding the story in realism. Thanks to some wonderful cinema verite footage, archived audio court recordings, present-day interviews with the surviving actors in the story, and the magnificent trove of photography (courtesy of the estate of Grey Villet), we the audience are transported to the recent past. We are invited to share in the laughter, shock, cheers, jeers and tears that the Lovings no doubt were going through on their journey to equality.
As someone from the outside looking in, I was personally amazed at how composed and uncomplicated they were. Many of us have an image in our heads of how someone in the same position as the Lovings would behave. However, they were not marching, protesting firebrands, but rather, a quiet, unassuming couple who only wanted one thing – to go home and live a normal life.
The Loving Story is a living, breathing piece of history whose themes of love, marriage and family will definitely resonate with today’s society and the questions we are currently facing surrounding these same issues.
In closing, a job well done to Nancy Buirski, the director and one of the producers of the project. According to Lean Rozen’s article in The Wrap, the documentary will air in February 2012 as part of HBO Documentaries’ celebration of Black History Month.