When filmmaker Nancy Buirski read Mildred Loving's 2008 obituary, it immediately struck her that she should make a movie about the accidental civil rights icon.
Loving, who was black and native American, and her husband, Richard, who was white, made history in 1958 when they were arrested for violating Virginia's ban on interracial marriage. The case eventually went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, which in 1967 unanimously struck down the law in Virginia and the remaining states with anti-miscegenation laws.
The showing is at Bow Tie Cinema Reston Town Center 13 at 6:30 p.m., followed by a Q & A with Buirski, co-producer Elisabeth Haviland James and Bernie Cohen, one of the Loving's attorneys.
"Their story seemed very powerful to me," says Buirski. "It seemed overlooked that their story had not been told in a movie before."
Buirski, who founded the Full Frame Documentary Film Festival in Durham, NC, and James tell the story through the Lovings' home movies, 1965 footage from an unfinished documentary, photographs, news archives and interviews with family members and the Lovings' attorneys. They also licensed a book on the Lovings called Virginia Hasn't Always Been For Lovers by Phyl Newbeck.
The film has been shown at several other film festivals this year, including the Tribeca Film Festival and SilverDocs at AFI in Silver Spring. It will air on HBO during Black History Month in February 2012.
Even though it has been more than 40 years since the Supreme Court case, the story still is relevant today, says Cohen, who was a 30-year-old new lawyer,
"Virginia has come a long way in knocking down segregation," he said. "That case was the last nail in the coffin of discrimination [laws]. But the whole world has a long way to go."
Buirski says she started making the film when Barack Obama - who is mixed race - was running for president. It also seemed timely because the fight for same-sex marriage rights is ongoing, she said.
"Had Barack Obama's parents been living in one of the 16 states with interracial marriage laws, their marriage would have been a felony," says Buirski. "Making this movie feels like the nexis of both of those issues. It is really about freedom and loving who you want to love."
The Washington West Film Festival runs Thursday through Saturday in Reston and Herndon. For ticket information and a lineup of the more than two dozen films, click here.