“Loving” Becomes First Feature Film to Play at African American Museum’s Oprah Theatre

“Loving” Becomes First Feature Film to Play at African American Museum’s Oprah Theatre

By Lauren Victoria Burke (NNPA Newswire Contributor)

Some films rely on pyrotechnics and special effects to get attention. Other films are jolting just by retelling a true story in a direct way. The film “Loving,” released earlier this month, is the latter.

“Loving,” which highlights the history of the landmark U.S. Supreme Court case that ended the ban on interracial marriage in the U.S., debuted in Washington, D.C. on October 24. The film was the first feature film to be shown at the Smithsonian’s new National Museum of African American History and Culture in the stunning Oprah Winfrey Theatre.

The film details the lives of Richard Loving, who was White, and Mildred Loving, who was Black (at times she also self-identified as Native American). The two married in Washington, D.C., in 1958 and were sentenced to a year in prison after returning to Virginia. Interracial marriage was illegal in Virginia. Though the two married in Washington, D.C., their marriage license would not be recognized in Virginia, and the act of circumventing the law in Virginia and then returning to the state to live as man and wife was the formal charge against the Lovings. The Lovings sued the Commonwealth of Virginia in the 1967 and their victory invalidated state laws across the U.S. prohibiting interracial marriage.

The National Museum of African American History and Culture and Comcast hosted not only a screening of the film, but a special gala reception and panel discussion before presenting it. Those who attended were riveted by the narrative of a film set in against a backdrop of bigotry written into the law in many states in the U.S. The landmark Supreme Court case, Loving vs. Virginia, would strike down Virginia’s Racial Integrity Act of 1924, which made marriage between Whites and non-Whites a criminal act. The movie is understated, but no less jolting in it’s portrayal of a years long struggle the couple would endure as they confronted the legal system.

Loving was directed and written by Jeff Nichols and stars Joel Edgerton as Richard Loving and Ruth Negga as Mildred Loving. All three were in attendance for the screening and panel discussion at the African American Museum. Both of the film’s stars, who hail from Ireland and Australia, spoke in detail about the portrayal of the film’s main characters and the ongoing discourse with the last surviving child of the Lovings, their daughter Pam. Nichols, told the audience he was motivated to do the film after seeing the 2014 documentary, “The Loving Story,” by Nancy Buirski.

According to the Pew Research Center, “6.3 percent of all marriages were between spouses of different races in 2013, up from less than 1 percent in 1970.”

Richard Loving was killed by a drunk driver in 1975. Mildred Loving passed away in 2008.

Lauren Victoria Burke is a political analyst who speaks on politics and African American leadership. She can be contacted at LBurke007@gmail.com and on Twitter at @LVBurke.