INDIEWATCH: ‘The Loving Story’ offers a look at landmark interracial marriage case
“The Loving Story” documents the case that made mixed marriage legal in the U.S. brought on by the Lovings, Richard (a white man) and Mildred (a “colored” woman). They were banished from Virginia when they wed in 1958 in Washington, D.C.
At this time, interracial marriage was illegal in 24 states. This film tells the Lovings’ nine-year struggle for the right to stay husband and wife and return to their home state.
The real hook of “The Loving Story” is the dedication and love between Mildred and Richard.
“It was love at first sight. To marry someone and then have to go through all that they went through — it was nothing but love,” Mildred says in old footage.
Director Nancy Buirski shows several images of the Lovings’ admiration of one another. Richard, with a military-style buzz cut, is extremely affectionate with his wife — lying his head on her lap, hugging and kissing her. Mildred is shown as very soft-spoken, exuding a quiet elegance while staring into the face of adversity.
Buirski offers insight into this time in our history through interviews with Richard and Mildred’s children, Richard’s mother and Southern white men and women reflecting on interracial marriage. Though, she’s smart to juxtapose this with information from historian Edward Ayers of the University of Richmond.
He says segregation is fundamentally about sex, and it was designed to keep men and women of different races from temptation. “So, the more intimate a space was — a railroad car, a parlor, a restaurant, a school room —- the more likely it was to be segregated,” he says. “Ironically, the Loving case, being about love, being about sex, is actually what segregation was about all along.”
Prepare yourself for racial slurs and phrases such as “mongrel race,” but this film is quick to throw this mindset some sort of bone in that this case challenged racism and nonracists who were simply pro-establishment.
One of the most interesting videos in “The Loving Story” shows Mildred, Richard and their attorneys, Bernard S. Cohen and Philip J. Hirschkop, as they make a game plan for bail and charges if the couple are discovered “secretly cohabitating” in Virginia during court proceedings.
It’s difficult to watch this without an emotional reaction, as well as question whether you’d have the same fortitude as the Lovings. Though, watching this, it’s interesting to note how society has progressed the past 60-plus years.
However, this documentary does end a bit flatly.
Because the Lovings’ story and their court case may only be reflected upon by the attorneys who argued it, “The Loving Story” loses a bit of gusto, sentiment and reflection on civil rights. It would have been a much more powerful documentary had it been made five or six years earlier, when Mildred was still alive.
That aside, “The Loving Story” offers an intelligent look at former injustices in the U.S. It’s still (kind of) worth a watch.
Available: Amazon Prime, Netflix Instant
IndieWatch is a weekly review of independent film and documentaries.
Lavine is Accent editor for the Grand Forks Herald. Call her at (701) 780-1265, (800) 477-6572, ext. 1265, or send email firstname.lastname@example.org. Read her blog at reeltalk.areavoices.com or follow her on Twitter at @AccentEditorGF.