Reel Reviews | Behind the Movement

by Charles Kirkland Jr.

TV One continues its solid work during its “Represent Black History” month campaign with the made-for-TV movie about the Montgomery Bus Boycott and the start of the civil rights movement.

On December 1, 1955, days after the acquittal of the perpetrators of the Emmett Till murder/lynching, Rosa Parks (Meta Golding), a seamstress and secretary for the Montgomery chapter of the NAACP, is instructed to give up her seat on the bus to a white man. Mrs. Parks refuses to rise from her seat. The police are called and she is removed from the seat and placed in jail.

Behind the Movement is a quick yet informative look at the forces put into motion when Mrs. Parks refused to move. Writer Karen O’Gilvie does a masterful job of showing that while Mrs. Parks was not the only one who had refused to give up her seat and been arrested, she was the one woman who came at the right time to start a wave of change. The journey includes her interactions with the NAACP, the Women’s Political Council (WPC) and even a young Reverend Martin Luther King (Shaun Clay). But more outstanding is O’Gilvie’s ability to not succumb to the usual demonization of white people and glorification of all those of color, but to illustrate the different shades of the humanity of those at the time.

A glorious triumph for TV One, everything about this movie screams excellence, from the color palette of the cinematography to the design of the costumes and of course, the acting.

Director Aric Avelino and cinematographer Kevin Stewart visually craft a darkness and combine it with sepia tones that create softness and intimacy in the beginning of the movie. In a genius move, as the movie progresses, the darkness gives way to light a which coincides with and accents the events of the film that culminates in Reverend King’s speech and the trial of Rosa Parks.

Costume designer Jaclyn Banner perfectly encapsulates the look and feel of the time. Men wearing overcoats and three-piece suites with strong lapels and vests that button high and low. Women wearing white gloves with their coats. Rosa Parks’ glasses and Jo Ann Robinson’s (Loretta Devine) neck pearls and even handkerchiefs for wiping sweat. Everything is authentic and convincing of the period.

Finally, the acting. Isaiah Washington (Out of Time, Grey’s Anatomy) returns to excellence with his portrayal of E.D. Nixon, the president of the Montgomery chapter of the NAACP. From righteous indignation and anger to cool, calculated consideration and concern, Washington utilizes his great range to show the complexity and desire of the man who fanned flames into a fire. Meta Golding (The Hunger Games: Catching Fire) is perfect in simplicity showing the plain yet extraordinary character of Rosa Parks and her willingness to create change, even at her own expense.

Engaging, enlightening, compelling and uplifting, Behind the Movement informs its viewers and attempts to clarify the events leading up to a historic and unprecedented boycott. More remarkable is the ability to show the power of a group of dedicated people who organized themselves in less than five days to change the world in which they live.

Rated TV-PG for violence, Behind the Movement is a must-see movie for those who need a refresher on the soil upon which our forefathers, white and black, have trod. As the TV One studios continue to put out excellent work of this nature, hopefully, they can charge more for advertising and reduce the number of commercials they show.

Grade: A