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'The Loving Story': Why Laws Change

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Monday, Dec 10, 2012
The Loving Story's archival images grant the documentary an unusual sort of intimacy, even as it recalls a remarkable historical event.

When Mildred and Richard Loving were married in 1958, they became criminals. She was black and he was white, and so their union violated Virginia’s Racial Integrity Act of 1924. On July 14 in 1958, they were arrested: “They came one night and they knocked a couple times,” remembers Mildred. “I heard ‘em, and before I could get up, you know, they just broke the door open and came on in. When we got up they were standing by the bed, with flashlights.” The sheriff asked who she was, and she answered: “I said, ‘I’m his wife, and the sheriff said, ‘Not here, you’re not.’”
Mildred and Richard’s experience—their decision to take their case to the Supreme Court and the travails they endured for doing it—is at the center of The Loving Story, which opens 10 December at Maysles Cinema, to run through the 16th. The film mixes archival interviews with Mildred and Richard, and new interviews with relatives and the Lovings’ lawyers, Bernard S. Cohen and Philip J. Hirschkop. But its most allusive, evocative imagery consists of 16mm footage shot Abbott Mills for Hope Ryden in the 1960s, for a film that was never made, as well as photographs by Life magazine’s Grey Villet. These images grant the documentary an unusual sort of intimacy, even as it recalls a remarkable historical event.

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