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TIFF 2023 Review: Rustin – “A fascinating study”

A driving force behind orchestrating the 1963 March on Washington was Bayard Rustin who had to battle sexual prejudice and politics within the Black community to make the historic moment happen.

Questions about Bayard Rustin being a homosexual make him a contentious figure and force him to resign from the Southern Christian Leadership Conference despite all of his success as a civil rights activist; however, he remains undaunted and begins to formulate a plan to gather 100,000 protesters to fill the area around the Washington Monument.  Central to making this ambition a reality is Rustin being able to reforge his friendship and partnership with Martin Luther King Jr. as well as the politics involved in bringing together the NAACP and other civil rights groups and unions.

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Colman Domingo relishes the opportunity he has been given to portray the pivotal civil rights activist; there is a mischievous glint in his eye and swagger in his steps that will make him a major Oscar contender.  The kitchen scene featuring Rustin getting Coretta Scott King to sing along with her four children and then marching around the dinner table with them is priceless.  As for the rest of the cast, it is really those playing the office workers assisting Rustin who stand out rather than heavyweights like Jeffrey Wright and Chris Rock.

Maximizing their limited budget is filmmaker George C. Wolfe and production designer Mark Ricker as in most cases the desired scope has been achieved.  It is unavoidable that depicting the actual march would rely heavily on intercutting archival footage which achieves the desired effect but is disjointed at times because of the major differences in formatting and grading.  The homosexual storyline is the weakest link while seeing the logistical machine that Rustin put together in motion is a fascinating study of what occurs behind the scenes and gives those individuals the proper credit as without them there would have not been the civil rights movement.

The 48th Toronto International Film Festival runs September 7-17, 2023, and for more information visit    

Trevor Hogg is a freelance video editor and writer who currently resides in Canada; he can be found at LinkedIn.

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