The first trailer for Rustin, Netflix’s upcoming film about the life and work of Bayard Rustin, the openly gay Black civil rights leader and architect of 1963’s March on Washington, promises to put an end to the history of erasure around the visionary’s legacy.
Released Monday, on the official 60th anniversary of the historic freedom march, the first look captures the passionate, profound and often tumultuous journey of one of the country’s most significant civil rights activists, socialists, pacifists, labor unionists and gay rights advocates. Directed by DGA award and five-time Tony winner George C. Wolfe, Domingo — in his first leading feature film role — embodies the radical voice and fixture of the 20th-century fight for equality and justice in American democracy.
Rustin was an organizer who advised Martin Luther King Jr. on the historic march and gathering — an eight-week endeavor, according to the trailer. His refusal to apologize for who he was, what he believed in and who he loved, alongside his instincts to challenge authority (even in the communities his work most served), is captured in the powerful two-minute teaser.
“A demonstration made up of angelic troublemakers such as yourselves,” Domingo can be seen telling a group of young activists. “On Aug. 28, Black, white, young, old, rich, working class, poor will descend on Washington, D.C.”
Later in the trailer, Domingo’s Rustin promises: “We are committed to the cause of altering the trajectory of this country towards freedom. They either believe in freedom and justice for all, or they do not.”
Despite others’ unwillingness to see Black queer people as equal fighters and benefactors in the civil rights cause, Rustin’s strength of character and will helped galvanize a generation and set in motion one of history’s most monumental displays of resistance and calls for freedom. It also begs the question of how he could have been so forgotten by the very country he reshaped for the better.
“He is a role model for what it means to be an American, what it means to daily, moment-to-moment, commit to democracy, commit to freedom, commit to possibility, commit to discovery, commit to passing on that which you know to other people,” Wolfe told Netflix.
The film also stars Chris Rock, Jeffrey Wright, Audra McDonald, Glynn Turman, Aml Ameen, Gus Halper, CCH Pounder, Da’Vine Joy Randolph, Johnny Ramey, Michael Potts, Lilli Kay, Jordan-Amanda Hall, Jakeem Powell, Grantham Coleman, Jamilah Rosemond, Jules Latimer, Maxwell Whittington-Cooper, Frank Harts, Kevin Mambo, Carra Patterson, Bill Irwin, Cotter Smith and Adrienne Warren.
Rustin is produced by Bruce Cohen and Higher Ground’s Tonia Davis, with Higher Ground’s Barack and Michelle Obama, Mark R. Wright, Alex G. Scott, David Permut, Daniel Sladek and Chris Taaffe serving as executive producers.
Rustin is in select theaters Nov. 3 and will stream on Netflix beginning Nov. 17.