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“Good trouble” is the phrase most associated with Rep. John Lewis. He flipped what his parents told him not to do into something that became his life calling, to work toward justice for all by getting into good trouble.
“John Lewis: Good Trouble” is the documentary that lays out Lewis’ life path, from preaching to chickens on the family farm to being a student activist in Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s peaceful band of justice crusaders to running for elected office against his friend Julian Bond, to leading a nonviolent sit-in on the House floor of Congress in 2016. This film covers it all, and yet one is left wanting to spend more time at Lewis’ feet.
Dawn Porter, producer/director of “John Lewis: Good Trouble,” met Lewis when she interviewed him for her Netflix series “Bobby Kennedy for President.”
“He was the star of the show,” Porter said of Lewis. “He then came to me and asked if I would like to do something on him. Of course, I leaped at the chance because who wouldn’t want to do something about John Lewis?”
The film follows Lewis on a rigorous schedule going from speaking engagements to meeting with constituents at his Capitol Hill office. Everywhere he went, he was joined at the hip to his dedicated Chief of Staff Michael Collins. It is an easy relationship between the two with lots of joking that is built on a foundation of respect. It is a father-son relationship.
The film includes interviews with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, House Minority Whip Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.) and Reps. Ayanna Pressley, (D-Mass.) and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), as well as the late Rep. Elijah Cummings.
“It was important to have his contemporaries as well as these elders who not only were working in Congress with him but who also were activists,” Porter said. “They understood.”
It is Cummings who said with pride, “I cannot tell you how many times I’ve been mistaken for John Lewis in the airport.”
Lewis’ siblings say their brother was always different. When they speak about Lewis one feels their love and admiration jump off the screen.
“They did worry a lot about him,” Porter said of his siblings when they spoke of all the things their brother has done.
The production shows Lewis on a soundstage offering his perspective on his life as seen through archival news footage from the civil rights movement. Porter said she reminded him to reflect on the young John Lewis so he could tell his own story. At one point as he is being prepared for his commentary on a scene he just viewed, Lewis says about the footage, “I’ve never seen that before.”
“John Lewis: Good Trouble” is a Magnolia Pictures and Participant Media release in collaboration with CNN Films, Trilogy Films, and Color Farm Media founded by actress/producer Erika Alexander, best known for her role as Maxine Shaw on the hit ’90s TV show “Living Single.”
Lewis appeared in the film even after he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. His weight loss was evident but he still moved through his schedule at a high-energy pace.
The timing of this documentary is critical as weeks of peaceful protests continue. When Lewis and D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser appeared together at Black Lives Matter Plaza on Sunday, June 7, the dots were connected. It felt like Lewis was endorsing this generation’s peaceful protests, because just like he did beginning in his early 20s, they were getting into “good trouble.”
“John Lewis: Good Trouble” will be released July 3 via streaming services by Magnolia Pictures and Participant. View the movie trailer at https://youtu.be/z_oEkOdIXdo.