Streaming now: ‘John Lewis: Good Trouble’

Documentary finds its center in the inspiration and deeds of a legendary civil rights activist

By Rick Romancito
rickromancito@gmail.com
Posted 7/6/20

When we first see U.S. Rep. John Lewis, he is being readied for an on-camera interview in a stage setting. He is calm and collected. Then, he looks directly into the camera to say “I feel lucky and blessed that I’m serving in the Congress, but there are forces today trying to take us back to another time and another dark period.”

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Streaming now: ‘John Lewis: Good Trouble’

Documentary finds its center in the inspiration and deeds of a legendary civil rights activist

Posted

When we first see U.S. Rep. John Lewis, he is being readied for an on-camera interview in a stage setting. He is calm and collected. Then, he looks directly into the camera to say “I feel lucky and blessed that I’m serving in the Congress, but there are forces today trying to take us back to another time and another dark period.”

Then, after a beat, he continues. “We’ve come so far. We’ve made so much progress, but as a a nation and as a people we’re not quite there yet. We have miles to go.”

That we do.

In the documentary titled “John Lewis: Good Trouble” by Dawn Porter, we are given not only a reverent portrait of the legendary civil rights activist and politician but an assessment of how the gains made by Black leaders in the 1960s have since become systematically eroded. The forces alluded to by Lewis in that opening statement have been hard at work trying to make voting harder for African Americans, Latinos, the young and the poor. But, as he says in the movie, in a quote from which the title is taken, “When you see something that is not right, not fair, not just, say something, do something, get in trouble, good trouble, necessary trouble.”

At 80, Lewis is still a giant among leaders of the nonviolent movement that met fists,billy clubs, tear gas, rocks, sticks and even bullets and dynamite — all to simply ensure the rights of people of color were upheld. Lewis’ tireless work extended from social activism and legislative action on civil rights, to voting rights, gun control, health-care reform and immigration.

In some respects, this movie, like the recent “I Am Not Your Negro” about the work of author James Baldwin, is a vivid reminder of things many of us have taken for granted and are surprised by when suddenly taken away by a weak and frightened opposition that finds underhanded chicanery the only path to victory.

Lewis was a Freedom Rider in the 1960s, groups of young people of all colors who spread out into the south to get African Americans to not only register to vote but to show up at the polls. This is something today we might not give a second thought to but back then what they did was extremely dangerous. People died. Many were arrested and jailed. Countless others were threatened and beaten severely. This is why the 50th anniversary of the March to Montgomery was of great importance to activists such as Lewis.

In speaking to the audience in attendance that day, President Barack Obama said “Young people behind the Iron Curtain would see Selma and eventually tear down that wall. Young people in Soweto would hear Bobby Kennedy talk about ripples of hope and eventually banish the scourge of apartheid. Young people in Burma went to prison rather than submit to military rule. They saw what John Lewis had done.” This quote is not in the film but was spoken of the man who originally made that first fateful march alongside the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and may who would go on to make history in their own ways.

This film gives us much needed inspiration, though if any fault is made it is in honoring him just a little too much as Porter’s cameras follow him on speaking tours and in studio interviews where audiences simply love being in his presence.

It’s too bad the Taos Community Auditorium is closed for now because of the pandemic. This film deserves to be seen with an audience who might share the joy of seeing what was done in the name of freedom, what could have been, and what lies ahead for those seeking it now.

As John Lewis says in the film, “My greatest fear is that one day we may wake up and our democracy is gone. We cannot afford to let that happen and as long as I have breath in my body I will do what I can.”

Lewis has held office as Representative of the Georgia 5h district since 1987. The film is dedicated to the memory of Elijah Eugene Cummings (1951-2019), a close friend and ally of Lewis.

“John Lewis: Good Trouble” is rated PG for thematic material, including some racial epithets/ violence, and for smoking.

Tempo grade: B+.

It is now streaming for $12 as part of the Taos Center for the Arts Big Screen @ Home series. See below for details on how to watch.

Log back onto the TCA Big Screen @ Home website on Sunday (July 5) at 4 p.m. for a free TCA Film Fans discussion of the film via Zoom.

Also showing in the Taos Center for the Arts’ Big Screen @ Home series

Toni Morrison: Pieces I Am
Documentary
Not rated.
Ticket $3.99
Available through Big Screen TCA @ Home via tcataos.org.

This artful meditation on the legendary storyteller examines her life, her works and the powerful themes she has confronted throughout her literary career. Morrison leads an assembly of her peers, critics and colleagues on an exploration of race, history, America and the human condition.

Woven together with a rich collection of art, history, literature and personality, the film includes discussions about her many critically acclaimed works, her role as an editor of iconic African-American literature and her time teaching at Princeton University.

Available on Taos Library OverDrive, Amazon Prime and Hulu. Also, Log back onto the TCA Big Screen @ Home website on Sunday (July 5) at 4 p.m. for a free TCA Film and Book Fans discussion of the film via Zoom. For details, visit https://tcataos.org/big-screen/#event=39257614.

How does Big Screen TCA @ HOME work?

  • Go to tcataos.org/calendar/ and click on the movie you want to watch.
  • Then, click on the WATCH MOVIE link. After that, it’s easy! You will “buy a ticket,” and be able to view the film.
  • Watch on your computer, smartphone, tablet. Or, depending on the film, cast to your Apple TV, Google Chromecast or Roku.
  • Instructions for how to watch on smart TVs are available at ticket purchase.

Why do movies cost up to $12? These offerings are new releases and/or not widely available films. If you were going to see this on a big screen, a single entry at the Taos Community Auditorium costs between $7-$8.50. If there are 2 or more of you, it’s a deal! And even though TCA does not set the ticket price (the digital distributors do), we receive 50 percent of the ticket sales.

Why are time frames for viewing upon purchasing a ticket different? Virtual cinema platforms differ depending on the film’s distributor. The entire film industry is working fast to pivot during this time when social gatherings are prohibited. So, for now, there is no industry standard and different organizations have different ideas for how to “present” films digitally.

EDITOR’S NOTE: The Mitchell Storyteller 7 Theatres in Taos remains closed for the time being in response to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic. Until it reopens we will focus on movie reviews available online and through the TCA’s Big Screen @ Home series.

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