The March & The Bus
- Mon, Dec 4
Run Time: 96 min.
Of the many defining moments that symbolize the seismic activism of the civil rights movement, the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom in the Summer of 1963 was among the most impactful, representing one of the largest human rights rallies ever recorded in the United States, with over 200,000 participants.
James Blue’s The March, entered into the National Film Registry in 2008, is a moving and visually stunning documentary on the hope and cameraderie embodied by the March on Washington. It was commissioned by the US Information Agency for screening abroad and was prevented from being shown domestically until a special act of Congress permitted USIA films to be shown in the US twelve years after their release. Blue filmed participants as they prepared for the March in their home cities, followed them as they traveled to Washington, and recorded their reactions as they listened for the first time to Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s iconic speech “I Have A Dream” on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. Edward R. Murrow once said The March was “the finest argument for peaceful petition of redress of grievance that has ever been put on film.” For more information, see National Archives film preservationist Criss Austin’s articles on The March and its restoration and University of Oregon Professor David Frank’s expansive digital exhibition on the film.
In the acclaimed vérité documentary The Bus, American Society of Cinematographers Lifetime Achievement Award-winner filmmaker Haskell Wexler (Medium Cool) brings a sociological sample of the sea of humanity at the March into sharp focus, capturing the impressions of a diverse group of individuals as they travel to stand in the shadow of the Washington Monument to demand equality for African Americans. Produced and photographed by activist Wexler with a skeleton crew composed of filmmakers Nell Cox and Mike Butler, The Bus begins in San Francisco as an integrated collective organized by the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) embarks on a three-day cross-country road trip to join the March. Employing a 16mm Auricon sync-sound camera and a raw, unobtrusive shooting style, Wexler and crew are never acknowledged (or seemingly noticed) by his subjects as quiet moments and charged conversations collide.