In 1967, the Warren Court overturned all of the anti-miscegenation laws in the United States, but the monumental Supreme Court decision did not come easy, as documented in “The Loving Story,” screening at the .
“It’s a landmark thing that somehow, after a while, people just take it for granted,” director Nancy Buirski said. “You don’t realize that there was a struggle.”
In an interview Friday, Buirski explained that the spark that led her to make the documentary came in 2008 when she came across the obituary for Mildred Loving, a black and Native American woman who, along with her white husband, was arrested in Virginia in 1958 for marrying outside her race and later exiled.
Buirski said audiences take home an appreciation of just how recent it was that couples could not marry because they were difference races. “It also reminds you that anybody could change history,” she said. “The Lovings were not activists and they didn’t want to be heroes. They just wanted to go back to their home in Virginia.”
When Buirski had the idea for the film, she had just recently stepped down from running the Full Frame Documentary Film Festival in Durham, N.C., which she started in 1998. After being the creative director of a documentary film festival for a decade, she decided to make a documentary of her own, “The Loving Story.” She said the story of interracial marriage in the U.S. was an important subject no documentarian had dealt with before.
“I think the story of race in the United States is the American story,” Buirski said. “I don’t think there is any more important story that summarizes the overall narrative of our country.”
Another reason she made the film was the contemporary issue of same-sex marriage. “I felt there was a timeliness to it,” she said. “It’s about having the freedom to love who you want to love.”
Though neither Mildred nor Richard Loving were alive when the film was made, the two attorneys who represented them in court from 1963 all the way till the Supreme Court decision are. They both provided valuable information to convey the story, Buirski said, and referred her to cinema verite filmmaker Hope Ryden, who still had footage — that was never used in a film before — of the Lovings shot over the course of a few days in 1965. “The footage was very intimate,” Buirski said.
Buirski will participate in Amnesty International’s panel discussion at the festival, “The Legacy of the American Civil Rights Movement,” at 2 p.m. Saturday at the Session House.
“The Loving Story” screens Saturday, Oct. 15 at 11:30 a.m. at .