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The director of Ma Rainey's Black Bottom and the Oscar-winning writer of Milk are the creative forces behind Rustin, a melodramatic overlook at another heretofore unsung and unheard of architects in the battle for Civil Rights more specifically, the 1963 March on Washington DC.

This 2023 film tells the story of Bayard Rustin, who apparently was a very close friend of Martin Luther King and his family, who faced an uphill battle as Dr. King pretty much handed over the logistics of organizing the march, despite the problems when Mr. Rustin's personal life started taking focus away from his work as a Civil Rights advocate.

Dustin Lance Black, who won an Oscar for writing Milk has created a complex screenplay with Julian Breece, that like the 2016 film Hidden Figures introduces us to another figure in the Civil Rights movement that I have never heard of, though his story does feature a lot of civil rights leaders I have heard of surrounding him like Roy Wilkins, A Philip Randolph, and Adam Clayton Powell. All the films that have come out over the last couple of decades on this subject, how do we continue to be introduced to people so important to this part of history via screenplays written by white people? At least Breece is African American.

The story initially titillates when it is revealed that this Rustin guy might have had a sexual relationship with MLK Jr., a revelation that immediately grabs the viewer, but they clear it up almost immediately and then the story goes back and forth between Rustin's struggles with getting march organized and his affairs with two different men, one black and one white, though Rustin's personal life takes such a backseat here, it almost becomes irrelevant to the rest of the film.

There were a couple of disturbing scenes that stuck with me...the scene where Rustin is removed from a bus because he won't sit in the back. There's also a scene where Rustin arrives in DC and is confronted by a police officer, well played by Cotter Smith, who icily informs Rustin of the laws he must adhere to during the march.

I wish a little more attention had been paid to the technical aspects of the production. Some scenes were poorly lit and made it difficult to tell exactly what was going on. George C. Wolfe's direction was slightly overheated but he did get some solid performances from Colman Domingo, who I last saw in The God Committee, as Rustin, Ami Ameen as Martin Luther King, Chris Rock as Roy Wilkins, and Jeffrey Wright as Adam Clayton Powell. Another piece of Civil Rights history has been dragged out of the closet with some semblance of sincerity.