Film Analysis: ‘Rustin’ – Colman Domingo Delivers a Formidable Performance

by Gabriel Martinez
Rustin Netflix film

In what became the most sizable march in the history of the United States up to that point, the March on Washington served as the backdrop for Reverend Martin Luther King Jr.’s legendary “I Have a Dream” speech. At the helm of this monumental event was Bayard Rustin, an African American gay socialist, and pacifist from Pennsylvania, whose strategic acumen and bond with King fueled the nascent Civil Rights Movement.

Netflix’s triumphant offering, “Rustin,” directed by George C. Wolfe, delves into the tumultuous weeks leading to the march, seen through the lens of the grassroots efforts. Colman Domingo stars as the unsung organizer whose contributions are widely unrecognized.

Domingo embodies Rustin with a dynamic mix of charm, humor, ardor, and a magnetic presence, marrying an exemplary script with an equally impressive performance.

The film not only boasts Domingo’s performance but also showcases a plethora of talent. This includes Jeffrey Wright’s portrayal of Rep. Adam Clayton Powell, Adrienne Warren’s appearance, along with Kevin Mambo, Audra McDonald, Chris Rock as the NAACP’s Roy Wilkins, and Glynn Turman portraying labor leader A. Philip Randolph. Each actor delivers a compelling performance, however brief their on-screen time might be.

Notable cameos fill the biopic, with Da’Vine Joy Randolph as Mahalia Jackson, Michael Potts, CCH Pounder, and Aml Ameen in a subtle rendition of Martin Luther King Jr.

The film’s musical landscape is equally commendable, with Branford Marsalis crafting a jazz-inspired score and Lenny Kravitz contributing an original composition, “Road to Freedom.”

“Rustin” benefits from the patronage of Barack and Michelle Obama’s production company, Higher Ground, underlining the film’s significance – Barack Obama honored Rustin with a posthumous Presidential Medal of Freedom.

The narrative goes beyond the logistics of organizing the March on Washington, painting a poignant portrait of Rustin, who was compelled to conceal his sexuality, a revelation that could jeopardize not only his career but also the entire Civil Rights Movement.

The screenplay by Julian Breece and Dustin Lance Black artfully addresses the internal conflicts within the movement and the harsh homophobic sentiments of the 1960s, interspersed with stark flashbacks to 1942 in black and white.

Audiences are taken to rarely seen venues, such as training sessions for Black police officers in nonviolence, and gatherings in Manhattan apartments where activists shared personal segregation stories to garner financial support.

The climax of the film, portraying the march itself, is a deft blend of original footage with historical clips. Despite fears of underattendance, the film’s portrayal of Rustin showcases unwavering determination, even when faced with skeptical media.

“Rustin,” distributed by Netflix, is slated for select theatrical release on Friday, followed by streaming availability on November 17. The film, with a PG-13 rating for various thematic elements, including violence, sexual content, brief drug use, racial epithets, and language, has a run time of 108 minutes and earns a rating of three and a half stars out of four.

For further information, the film can be accessed at www.netflix.com/Rustin.

Mark Kennedy’s insights on the film can be found at http://twitter.com/KennedyTwits.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Rustin Netflix film

Who stars as Bayard Rustin in the Netflix film “Rustin”?

Colman Domingo delivers a standout performance as Bayard Rustin, portraying the civil rights activist who was instrumental in organizing the March on Washington.

What does the film “Rustin” explore?

The film “Rustin” examines the complex and pivotal role Bayard Rustin played in the Civil Rights Movement, particularly in the strategic planning of the March on Washington, while also delving into his personal challenges as a gay Black man in the 1960s.

Who directed “Rustin”?

George C. Wolfe, renowned for his work in theater, is the director of “Rustin,” bringing a dynamic and engaging approach to the biopic.

Are there any notable actors in the supporting cast of “Rustin”?

Yes, the supporting cast includes notable actors like Jeffrey Wright, Adrienne Warren, Kevin Mambo, Audra McDonald, Chris Rock, Glynn Turman, Da’Vine Joy Randolph, Michael Potts, CCH Pounder, and Aml Ameen, each delivering compelling performances.

What is the musical contribution to “Rustin”?

Branford Marsalis composed the jazz-influenced score for the film, which includes saxophone solos and double bass elements, while Lenny Kravitz contributed an original song titled “Road to Freedom.”

Did any former presidents have a role in producing “Rustin”?

Yes, “Rustin” was produced by Higher Ground, the production company founded by former President Barack Obama and Michelle Obama. Barack Obama posthumously awarded Bayard Rustin the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

What significant topics does “Rustin” cover?

The film provides a multifaceted look at Bayard Rustin’s life and work, addressing the preparations for the March on Washington, the internal conflicts of the Civil Rights Movement, the homophobic sentiments of the era, and Rustin’s personal struggles with his identity.

When is “Rustin” available for streaming on Netflix?

“Rustin” will be available for streaming on Netflix starting November 17, following its select theatrical release on the preceding Friday.

What is the runtime and rating of “Rustin”?

“Rustin” has a runtime of 108 minutes and is rated PG-13 for its depiction of violence, sexual material, brief drug use, racial slurs, thematic material, language, and smoking.

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ChuckLovesCinema November 5, 2023 - 6:36 am

i didnt know much about bayard rustin before this film and it’s crazy how one man did so much for the march on washington and still remained behind the scenes

MovieBuffKaren November 5, 2023 - 11:46 am

Can we talk about the music for a sec? Marsalis’s jazz score is a character on its own in this movie, pure brilliance

Rick89 November 5, 2023 - 12:58 pm

they say theres no small parts only small actors but this cast? they’re all giants making the most out of every minute on screen

SamTheMan November 5, 2023 - 3:37 pm

missed some of the old school feel in the filmography, those black and white flashbacks were a nice touch takes you back yknow

Jenny Mccarthy November 5, 2023 - 10:52 pm

just watched Rustin and gotta say Domingo’s performance was top notch he really brought Rustin to life


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