“The Defenders: How Lawyers Protected the Movement,” a documentary about lawyers who defended civil rights cases in Mississippi during the 1960s and 1970s. Credit: Courtesy photo/March on Washington Film Festival

More than 20 full-length and short films from established and emerging filmmakers are still available until October 11 as the 2022 March on Washington Film Festival (MOWFF) continues. Here are three reviews of films to consider.

The Defenders

During the 1950s and 1960s, three of the only four Black lawyers in Mississippi lawyers were joined by attorneys from around the country to work on civil rights cases. “The Defenders: How Lawyers Protected the Movement,” a documentary, incorporates black-and-white footage along with on-camera interviews with lawyers who worked on those cases. Lawyers from The NAACP Legal Defense Fund and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) were dispatched to work on cases where Black people were unfairly jailed or killed. Constance Baker Motley, who in 1966 became the nation’s first African American woman to serve as a federal judge was one of those lawyers working on the Mississippi team. Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson calls Motley her hero. Another lawyer featured was lawyer Marian Wright Edelman, founder and president emerita of the Children’s Defense Fund. Edelman was the first African American woman admitted to the Mississippi Bar in 1964, then began practicing law with the NAACP Legal Fund’s Mississippi office. The documentary was a joint production of the Mississippi Department of Archives and History (MDAH), the Foundation for Mississippi History (FMH) and Jackson-based media company Red Squared led by the film’s director Roderick Red. “The Defenders” movie trailer is just the beginning of this part of American history.

Maurice Hines: Bring Them Back

The documentary “Maurice Hines: Bring Them Back,” gives viewers a complete and honest look at Hines’ career as a dancer, choreographer, actor, and producer. Seen is also the difficult relationship with his brother Gregory Hines. (Courtesy photo/March on Washington Film Festival)

Maurice Hines and his brother Gregory Hines began their dancing careers at ages five and three. Along with their father Maurice Hines, Sr., they were frequent guests on the “Tonight Show” with Johnny Carson and performed in Las Vegas clubs. Audiences loved seeing the Hines brothers dance, but conflicts between Maurice and Gregory caused a split that lasted more than ten years. “The Cotton Club,” a movie starring the brothers closely mirrored their off-screen lives. “Maurice Hines: Bring Them Back” is a portrait of the charismatic song-and-dance man who was considered one of the top choreographers during his career. The 2019 documentary was co-produced and directed by John Carluccio and co-produced and written by Howard University alumna Tracey E. Hopkins. Debbie Allen and Charles Randolph-Wright were executive producers. The film includes interviews with Washington DC native and Tony winner

Chita Rivera, Mercedes Ellington, family members and close friends paint a portrait of this underrecognized entertainer. Now 78 years old, when Maurice tells his story in this documentary, his emotions jump off the screen. The movie trailer for “Maurice Hines: Bring Them Back” is a great tease.

The Forgotten Story of Nearest Green

Nathan “Nearest” Green, a freed former slave is on record as the first African American Master Distiller of whiskey. Actor/producer and Washington, DC native Jeffrey Wright is the on-screen storyteller for Green’s tale. It is not folklore that the formula and process that Green created was taken by a young white man who made Green’s whiskey famous under another brand name. This film short is the background of what made Green and Lynchburg, Ky. famous for its whiskey.

View any of these films, plus more from the MOWFF website: https://www.marchonwashingtonfilmfestival.org

Brenda C. Siler @bcscomm

Brenda Siler is an award-winning journalist and public relations strategist. Her communications career began in college as an advertising copywriter, a news reporter, public affairs producer/host and a...

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