You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

The Loving Story

Nancy Buirski's laid-back docu features the Lovings -- an interracial couple whose 1958 marriage led to their arrest for violating Virginia's anti-miscegenation laws.

With: Mildred Jeter Loving, Richard Loving, Bernard Cohen, Philip Hirschkop, Peggy Loving, Sydney Jeter.

Nancy Buirski’s laid-back docu concerns the aptly named Lovings — white Richard and black/Native American Mildred, whose 1958 marriage led to their arrest for violating Virginia’s anti-miscegenation laws, as well as to a Supreme Court case that overturned such statutes in 16 states. Surprisingly, the portrait that emerges from the film’s copious 16mm homemovie images and conversations with friends and relations is that of an affectionate couple, fully accepted and at ease in their interracial community, but persecuted by a sheriff whose racism found widespread currency elsewhere in Virginia. Fascinating HBO docu is skedded to air in February.

Given a suspended sentence and banished from Old Dominion, the Lovings moved to Washington, D.C., but found themselves ill suited to urban life and often snuck back home for extended periods. Evocative snapshots by Life photographer Grey Villet show the Lovings’ three young children happily perched in trees, or the whole family gleefully grouped together around the porch.

Tired of their years-long clandestine existence and inspired by the civil rights movement unfolding around them (illustrated with newsreel clips that ran on TV at the time) , Mildred Loving wrote a letter to then-Attorney Gen. Robert Kennedy, who promptly referred her to the ACLU. Never were the Lovings seeking to do anything more than gain the right to return home. But they proved willing to go to whatever lengths necessary to achieve that right.

Next, extensive archival and present-day interviews recount the adventures of the two young attorneys barely out of law school, Bernard Cohen and Philip Hirschkop, who were handed a case of tremendous precedent-setting import. The two discuss their defense position at great length with each other, the Lovings and the press in concurrent on-camera coverage as the ongoing legal drama passes through lesser Virginia venues to the U.S. Supreme Court. The docu includes audio excerpts of the fledgling lawyers’ arguments to the highest court in the nation, which then handed down a unanimous decision in the Lovings’ favor.

What astonishes in Buirski’s docu is not just the quantity and quality of the black-and-white 16mm footage, but its unpressured candor, particularly in the harsh light of current media feeding frenzies. While Richard Loving registers as clearly uncomfortable in the public spotlight, Mildred treats the lawyers, the reporters and all comers with the same friendly, casual articulateness and serene lack of self-consciousness with which she might greet a neighbor. The Lovings’ unprepossessing affection, evident in every frame of their homemovies, forms a perfect intimate counterpoint to the historical upheaval and ultimate rendering of justice.

Production values are pro, and Elisabeth Haviland James’ sensitive editing serves the vault material well.

The Loving Story


Production: An HBO Documentary Films presentation of an Augusta Films production. Produced by Nancy Buirski, Elisabeth Haviland James, Nancy Abraham. Co-producer, Patricia Romeu. Executive producers, Scott Berrie, Marshall Sonenshine, Sheila Nevins. Directed by Nancy Buirski. Written by Buirski, Susie Ruth Powell.

Crew: Camera (B&W/color, HD), Abbot Mills, Rex Miller, Steve Milligan; editor, Elisabeth Haviland James; music, David Majzlin; music supervisor, Susan Jacobs; sound (Dolby Digital), Mark Barosso; re-recording mixer, Martin Czembor. Reviewed on DVD, New York, May 3, 2011. (In Tribeca Film Festival -- Spotlight.) Running time: 77 MIN.

With: With: Mildred Jeter Loving, Richard Loving, Bernard Cohen, Philip Hirschkop, Peggy Loving, Sydney Jeter.

More Film

  • Noah CentineoNickelodeon Kids' Choice Awards, Show,

    Kids’ Choice Awards 2019: JoJo Siwa, Noah Centineo Take on Bullying

    This year’s Nickelodeon Kids’ Choice Awards was full of positivity and encouragement to be yourself. DJ Khaled, known for his upbeat mantras, hosted the 32nd annual awards ceremony alongside JoJo Siwa at USC’s Galen center. Siwa accepted the award for favorite social music star. Siwa said in her acceptance speech, “I get hated on every [...]

  • Us Scriptwriter and Film-maker Larry Cohen

    Larry Cohen, Cult Horror Writer-Director of 'It's Alive,' Dies at 77

    Larry Cohen, best known for his work as a B-movie producer and director in the ’70s and his later work in screenwriting, has died. He was 77. Cohen’s friend, actor and publicist Shade Rupe, confirmed the news, which was announced in a post to Cohen’s official Facebook page. Rupe said Cohen died in Los Angeles [...]

  • Captain Marvel

    Box Office: 'Captain Marvel' Shatters $900 Million Milestone

    Brie Larson’s “Captain Marvel” continues to do heroic business. In its latest box office milestone, the female-fronted superhero tentpole zoomed past $900 million in ticket sales worldwide. “Captain Marvel” brought in a mighty $87 million globally this weekend, including $52 million from international territories. It has now generated $589 million overseas for a global haul [...]

  • Us - Lupita Nyong’o - cr:

    Box Office: Jordan Peele's 'Us' Stuns With $70 Million Opening Weekend

    Talk about scary good. Universal’s “Us,” the second directorial effort from Jordan Peele, pulled off a stunning debut, generating $70 million from 3,741 North American locations. That haul is enough to land it the second-best opening weekend of the year behind Disney’s “Captain Marvel” ($153 million). The psychological thriller about a family confronted by a [...]


    Film Review: 'Shazam!'

    In “Shazam!,” Zachary Levi brings off something so winning it’s irresistible. He plays a square-jawed, rippling-muscled man of might, with a cheesy Day-Glo lighting bolt affixed to his chest, who projects an insanely wholesome and old-fashioned idea of what a superhero can be. But he’s also playing a breathless teenage kid on the inside, and [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content