‘Rustin’ review: A crucial civil rights activist gets what’s coming to him | ET REALITY


Occasionally, an actor dominates a film so much that its success depends largely on his every word and gesture. That’s the case with Colman Domingo’s galvanic lead performance in “Rustin,” which runs like a current through this portrait of the gay civil rights activist, a close advisor to the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., a former pacifist. convict, singer, lutenist, socialist… Bayard Rustin He had many lives, but remains best known as the main organizer of the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. It was Rustin who read the The demands of the march. from the podium, staying close to King’s side as he delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech.

A work of reclamation and celebration at the same time, “Rustin” seeks to put its subject front and center in the history he helped make and from which he has at times been eluded, in part because, as an openly gay man, defied both convention and the law. Theirs was a rich, fascinatingly complex story, full of great personalities and tremendous risks, a story that here is distilled primarily through the march, which the film follows from its hasty conception to its surprising realization on August 28, 1963, when a quarter of a million people gathered at the Lincoln Memorial. It was the decisive public triumph in Rustin’s life.

After a little historical staging, through images of stoic protesters surrounded by screaming racists, director George C. Wolfe, working from a script by Julian Breece and Dustin Lance Black, gets to work. It’s 1960 and King (Aml Ameen) is exasperated. Several activists have called on King to lead a mass protest against the upcoming Democratic National Convention. Sighing, King casts his eyes upward as if he were pleading for a witness from on high and politely declines: “I’m not your man.” A few seconds later, his gaze is directed upward again, but now towards Rustin, who stands above King, challenging him.

The protest, Rustin explains, will send a message to the party and its candidate, the favorite John F. Kennedy. Unless Democrats take a stand against segregation, Rustin says with increasing passion and volume, “our people will not defend them.” His directness and body language nicely dramatize Rustin’s skills as a strategist, which reach a crescendo when he sits down, so that now he is the one looking at King. Influenced by Rustin’s compelling argument, King agrees to lead the protest, angering establishment power brokers such as NAACP head Roy Wilkins (a miscast Chris Rock) and U.S. Representative in Harlem Adam Clayton Powell Jr. (a ferocious Jeffrey Wright). , taking no prisoners).

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