Story of Bayard Rustin, an often unsung Black queer man who fought alongside Martin Luther King, is adapted into a rousing, if creaky, drama
We’re in the middle of this year’s fall festival season which also means that we’re starting this year’s Oscar season which, as ever, then means that we’re in the thick of the dreaded biopic season. Films about
are all trying to add fresh dynamism to the facts and figures of biographies, a practice that more often than not, feels rather thankless. Or at least it does to us as viewers. Academy members and actors trying to impress Academy members might disagree, the last decade offering up 15 acting Oscars to those playing dress-up as real people.
What marks Netflix’s Oscar play Rustin out, at least on initial scan, is its focus on the kind of person who isn’t usually afforded a place in this particular spotlight, a gay Black man whose story hasn’t trickled down to as many of us as it should have. Even at the time, in the fraught early 60s, the life and work of Bayard Rustin was being diminished, his contributions too often outweighed by bigotry over his sexuality. Played by Colman Domingo, an actor finally receiving his leading man due, Rustin is a tireless activist, fighting alongside close friend Martin Luther King Jr (a note-perfect Aml Ameen). But childish rumours about their relationship, started and maintained by their peers, led to public controversy and a rift in their friendship.