the archive footage of this couple, there is this energy between them that is
so beautiful and so alive. Joel and I wanted to
re-create that out of a respect for the pair, but also because it looked like
fun because they actually giggle, and just look like [they have] such a really lovely
– Ruth Negga on how she and Joel Edgerton strove to portray Mildred and Richard Loving in “Loving”
Loving v. Virginia was the landmark civil rights decision by the United States Supreme Court that invalidated laws preventing inter-racial marriage. Virginia had strict anti-miscegenation laws which prohibited marriage between ‘whites’ and 'coloreds’. The couple who brought these charges to the court was Mildred and Richard Loving—a black woman and her white husband—who were sentenced to a year in prison for marrying each other. The Supreme Court overturned the Lovings’ convictions in a unanimous decision on June 12, 1967, now colloquially known as “Loving Day”.
The case has been receiving renewed attention thanks to a number of recent works. From Chronical Books, Loving V. Virginia by Patricia Hruby Powell and illustrated by Shadra Strickland is a gorgeous “documentary novel” based on the case. For younger readers, there’s The Case for Loving by Selina Alko with illustrations by the author and Sean Qualls, available from Scholastic Books. Finally, in theaters now, Loving directed by Jeff Nichols, starring Joel Edgerton and Ruth Negga, who is Oscar-nominated this year for her performance.
“I know we have some enemies, but we have some friends too.”
The first trailer for Loving, unveiled Tuesday, shows Ruth Negga’s and Joel Edgerton’s fight for their love.
The Jeff Nichols film, based on a true story, stars Edgerton as Richard Loving, whose interracial marriage to Mildred (Negga) caused them to be sentenced to prison in Virginia in 1958. Their case was taken up by the American Civil Liberties Union and eventually went all the way to the Supreme Court, resulting in the end of America’s miscegenation laws.
“Chemistry is an incalculable thing.
You find two people that you really like and respond to, that fit the spirit of
the people who are going to be on-screen, and you place them together and hope
for the best.”
“These two people have to connect. That’s where I lean very heavily on
these two actors. There’s a scene where Mildred has
been released from jail. She goes home. Richard’s not there. He sneaks out that
night and sneaks into her room. It’s all done in one shot.”
“I remember sitting
behind the camera watching this and thinking, ‘There’s no flinching. There is no
hint of hesitation in their skin or eyes. They are face to face, cheek to
cheek. Lips to lips, in this very delicate, intimate scene.’ That’s the definition of chemistry.
I can’t take any credit for that other than I just set the table.”
– “Loving” writer/director Jeff Nichols on the beautiful chemistry created on-screen by Joel Edgerton and Ruth Negga as Richard and Mildred Loving
Monday, June 12, marks the 50th anniversary of the landmark United States Supreme Court decision Loving v. Virginia, which quashed anti-miscegenation laws in 16 states around the nation, ushering restrictions against interracial marriage to the wrong side of history.
The date is now remembered as Loving Day in honor of Richard and Mildred Loving, the couple who defied the state’s ability to dictate the terms of their love based on their skin color. Mildred, who was of African American and Native American descent, and Richard, who was white, wed in 1958 in Washington D.C., because interracial marriage was illegal in their native rural Virginia, as well as 15 other Southern U.S. states.
When the Lovings returned to Virginia, however, local police raided their home one early morning after being tipped off by another resident. They declared the Lovings’ marriage license invalid within the scope of the state, placing the couple under arrest.
The Lovings pled guilty to “cohabiting as man and wife, against the peace and dignity of the Commonwealth,” and were sentenced to one year in prison. A judge later agreed to suspend the sentence if Mildred and Richard left Virginia and did not return for 25 years.
The couple relocated to Washington, D.C., but they did not end their story there. In 1964, attorneys from the ACLU filed a motion on behalf of the Lovings, requesting the charges and sentences against the Lovings be dropped. The Lovings appealed the local ruling all the way to the Supreme Court, where their sentence was unanimously overturned in 1967.
“Under our Constitution,” Chief Justice Earl Warren said in his decision, “the freedom to marry, or not marry, a person of another race resides with the individual and cannot be infringed by the State.”
Two years before this verdict, in the spring of 1965, Life magazine photojournalist Grey Villet spent time with the Lovings, as well as their family and friends, documenting the lives of a couple whose love had transcended the everyday to become the stuff of legends.
Villet’s photo essay, titled “The Lovings: An Intimate Portrait,” captures Mildred and Richard when word of their civil rights battle was spreading throughout the country and the fate of their relationship remained unknown. Through black-and-white images, the photographer captures the subtle glances, spurts of laughter and moments of quiet determination that, together, comprise a love story whose power echoes today.
We commemorate the Lovings’ bravery and tenacity in the face of prejudice and the systems of white supremacy. Villet’s photos help us remember the Lovings not just for what they represented, but who they were. The simple moments of connection, support and companionship that provided the strength to change the world.
Grey Villet Richard and Mildred Loving, Virginia 1965
When my late husband, Richard, and I got married in Washington, DC in 1958, it wasn’t to make a political statement or start a fight. We were in love, and we wanted to be married.
We didn’t get married in Washington because we wanted to marry there. We did it there because the government wouldn’t allow us to marry back home in Virginia where we grew up, where we met, where we fell in love, and where we wanted to be together and build our family. You see, I am a woman of color and Richard was white, and at that time people believed it was okay to keep us from marrying because of their ideas of who should marry whom.
When Richard and I came back to our home in Virginia, happily married, we had no intention of battling over the law. We made a commitment to each other in our love and lives, and now had the legal commitment, called marriage, to match. Isn’t that what marriage is?
Not long after our wedding, we were awakened in the middle of the night in our own bedroom by deputy sheriffs and actually arrested for the “crime” of marrying the wrong kind of person. Our marriage certificate was hanging on the wall above the bed. The state prosecuted Richard and me, and after we were found guilty, the judge declared: ”Almighty God created the races white, black, yellow, malay and red, and he placed them on separate continents. And but for the interference with his arrangement there would be no cause for such marriages. The fact that he separated the races shows that he did not intend for the races to mix.” He sentenced us to a year in prison, but offered to suspend the sentence if we left our home in Virginia for 25 years exile.
We left, and got a lawyer. Richard and I had to fight, but still were not fighting for a cause. We were fighting for our love.
Though it turned out we had to fight, happily Richard and I didn’t have to fight alone. Thanks to groups like the ACLU and the NAACP Legal Defense & Education Fund, and so many good people around the country willing to speak up, we took our case for the freedom to marry all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. And on June 12, 1967, the Supreme Court ruled unanimously that, “The freedom to marry has long been recognized as one of the vital personal rights essential to the orderly pursuit of happiness by free men,” a “basic civil right.”
My generation was bitterly divided over something that should have been so clear and right. The majority believed that what the judge said, that it was God’s plan to keep people apart, and that government should discriminate against people in love. But I have lived long enough now to see big changes. The older generation’s fears and prejudices have given way, and today’s young people realize that if someone loves someone they have a right to marry.
Surrounded as I am now by wonderful children and grandchildren, not a day goes by that I don’t think of Richard and our love, our right to marry, and how much it meant to me to have that freedom to marry the person precious to me, even if others thought he was the “wrong kind of person” for me to marry. I believe all Americans, no matter their race, no matter their sex, no matter their sexual orientation, should have that same freedom to marry. Government has no business imposing some people’s religious beliefs over others. Especially if it denies people’s civil rights.
I am still not a political person, but I am proud that Richard’s and my name is on a court case that can help reinforce the love, the commitment, the fairness, and the family that so many people, black or white, young or old, gay or straight seek in life. I support the freedom to marry for all. That’s what Loving, and loving, are all about.
–Mildred Loving in 2007, on the 40th Anniversary of the Supreme Court’s decision in the Loving case, overturning laws throughout the United States that banned interracial marriage.
“One of my favourite scenes, which is a perfect
example of what [director] Jeff [Nichols] does so masterfully, is when Richard
and Mildred come back to Virginia. They’re not saying a word and Mildred just
takes a moment to feel the sun. In that moment, without any dialogue, you
not only sense what coming home means to her — you also feel it. You feel the
temperature, you feel the light, you can smell. It’s like adding another
dimension to watching a movie.”
“And it’s not just that, you see him looking at her. And
the tiniest bit of a smile breaks through his reserve, because he’s
given her what she’s wanted so badly. And then he looks up the road,
where all the bad things may come from, and he feels the anxiety again. And all
of that happens in a few seconds of screen time.”
– “Loving” producer Colin Firth describing his favourite moment in the film
American Honey Directed by: Andrea Arnold What it’s about: A wild teenager (played by newcomer Sasha Lane) who joins in with a group of similarly crazy kids who travel around the U.S. working for a multi level marketing scheme. This is also known for being the movie that Shia Labeouf cut his hand on. If the description isn’t enough to convince you then you should be convinced to watch it by Arnold’s talent alone. She’s an Oscar winning director who’s best known for Fish Tank and two of her previous films have played at Cannes. Crossing my fingers this one makes it there too. Release date: Undetermined as of yet but A24 says they’re dropping this in the fall (so maybe they have an Oscar push in mind?)
The Fits Directed by: Anna Rose Holmer What it’s about: An 11 year old tomboy named Toni who falls in with a dance troupe while she’s supposed to be boxing at the gym. But things start to go awry when the girls in the dance troupe succumb to violent fainting fits. The film already got rave review at Venice last year and is getting positive review at Sundance. Release date: Undetermined so far but indie distributor Oscillope bought it before its festival premiere so the good news is this will be hitting theatres in limited release in 2016. Follow @TheFitsFilm for updates.
The Invitation Directed by: Karyn Kusama What it’s about: A man attends a dinner party thrown by his ex-wife and her new husband and slowly suspects that they have sinister intentions towards him. The low-key thriller stars Tom Hardy look-alike Logan Marshall-Green along with Michiel Huisman and Emayatzy Corinealdi. It has a mostly white cast but Kusama remains one of the few Asian-American women to have a strong and continuous career as a film director. Release date: March 25, 2016
Equity Directed by: Meera Menon What it’s about: A female wall street trader played by Anna Gunn who is mired in a world of corruption, greed and scandal. Billed as the first wall street movie centered about a woman this has a predominantly (possibly entirely?) white cast however director Meera Menon is Indian-American. Release date: No official date yet but this was picked up by Sony Picture Classics before its official Sundance premiere.
Loving Directed by: Jeff Nichols What it’s about: Real life couple Mildred and Richard Loving who married when interracial marriage was still illegal in their state and became plaintiffs in Loving vs. Virgina, the court case that made interracial marriage legal within the whole of the U.S. Ruth Negga plays Mildred with Joel Edgerton as Richard. Release date: None yet, but this will probably head to festivals sometimes this year looking for a distributor.
Miles Ahead Directed by: Don Cheadle What it’s about: A passion project for Cheadle the movie examines the life of Miles Davis as he is interviewed by a Rolling Stone reporter, played by Ewan McGregor, in the 1970s. This one got mixed reviews when it played at festivals but by all acounts Cheadle’s performance is awards worthy. Release date: April 1, 2016
Moana Directed by: John Musker and Ron Clements What it’s about: Ayoung woman who sets off on an adventure helped by a famed demi-God. The nice thing about this one is that not only is it about polynesians but the main vocal cast (which includes Dwayne Johnson) also are of polynesian ancestry. Release date: November 23, 2016
The Queen of Katwe Directed by: Mira Nair What it’s about: A biopic based on Ugandan prodigy Phiona Mutesi who grew up in a slum and then turned her life around after her teacher taught her how to play chess. It’s also going to be Lupita Nyong'o’s first live-action role post-Oscar and also stars David Oyelowo. Release date: Undetermined but this is owned by Disney so it will likely get a wide release sometime this year.
Race Directed by: Stephen Hopkins What it’s about: A biopic on Olympian athlete Jesse Owens during his time at the 1936 Olympics in Hitler’s Germany. Owens is played by relative newcomer Stephan James, and the rest of the cast includes William Hurt, Jeremy “I’m a sexist creep” Irons, and Carice van Houten. Release date: February 19, 2016
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