Culture / Film

A new film coming to Netflix centres the life of gay Civil Rights leader Bayard Rustin

When the formidable duo that is Barack and Michelle Obama birthed Higher Ground Productions in May 2018, we stood by with bated breath to see what would emerge from this seismic new venture. After all, as long time observers of the former US President's summer reading list, we're well aware that the couple has good taste. As it turns out, their first foray into the realm of narrative feature films will be a biopic orbiting around the life of the late Civil Rights leader and gay rights activist, Bayard Rustin; who incidentally, Obama awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom to in 2013, albeit posthumously.

Of course, if we were ever to have a film created after our lives (we're not holding our breath) it would be an honour for Barry and Mich to produce it. And their choice to focus on Bayard Rustin feels incredibly timely, especially after the horror show that almost was The Activist. Below, we've compiled everything you need to know about the forthcoming film Rustin.


What is Rustin about?

While we're all familiar with the names Martin Luther King Jr, Malcolm X and Rosa Parks, this film centres on the lesser known figure Bayard Rustin. Both Black and openly gay, Rustin stood at a unique intersection compared with the previously mentioned leaders. As a result he was both a key leader of the Civil Rights movement in the 60s and a staunch voice for gay rights; although other civil rights leaders thought of his sexuality as a liability, and so, he was often forced into the shadows so as not to "diminish" the civil rights work they were trying to accomplish.

So far as we know, the film will shine a light on his unique life. Rustin was an important organiser in the civil rights movement, orchestrating the Freedom Rides and leading the marches on Washington, including that in 1963 where MLK Jr. delivered his monumental "I Have A Dream" speech. Famous for the statement "the only weapons we have is our bodies", as a pacifist, Rustin was jailed in 1944 for refusing to fight in WWII - his first display of non-violence - and was later imprisoned for 60 days after being found having sex in a parked car.


Who will star in the film?

Confirmed in the role of Bayard Rustin is none other than Colman Domingo, who we previously saw in Euphoria and Ma Rainey's Black Bottom. Joining him is comedy king Chris Rock as NAACP leader Roy Wilkins, while Glynn Turman and Audra McDonald will play A. Philip Randolph and Ella Baker, respectively.


When will Rustin air?

At this point in time, we don't have a release date. Which makes complete sense considering that we don't have a production start date either. But we can presume Rustin will air on Netflix as part on the upcoming slate of projects like Exit West and Satellite organised between Higher Ground and the streaming giant.

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