John Lewis: Good Trouble


Opening Friday, July 3

Rep. John Lewis of Georgia, a tireless legislator and a hero of the civil rights movement, is the subject of director Dawn Porter’s excellent documentary John Lewis: Good Trouble, which takes its name from one of Lewis’s famous exhortations. 

In fact, it’s the first thing we hear in the new film: “Speak up, speak out, and get in what I call good trouble,” Lewis says. “Necessary trouble. Do what’s right.” 

Lewis has been fighting the good fights—plural—for more than 50 years, and once again his words speak directly to our times. The film feels like a vitamin B12 shot of pure, uncut hope. 

Lewis, currently serving his 17th term in the U.S. House of Representatives at age 80, has become a national institution—the conscience of Congress. 

He’s seen it all. The son of Alabama sharecroppers, he was the youngest speaker at the 1963 March on Washington. In his government career he’s advanced critical legislation on civil rights, environmental protections, fair wages—it’s a long list to which Lewis is adding items to this day. In 2016, he led the House sit-in demanding action on gun control after 49 people were gunned down at Pulse, a gay nightclub in Orlando. 

Porter uses a flashback structure to highlight the undeniable parallels between the time of the civil rights movement and today. It’s the film’s core strength, imbuing it with a terrible urgency, particularly in the passages concerning voter suppression. Archival clips and contemporary verité scenes are seasoned with commentary from admirers including Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Hillary Clinton, Cory Booker, and Stacey Abrams. 

The film’s local theatrical release has been scuttled by the Covid-19 crisis, but you can see it online starting July 3, and thanks to an innovative distribution program from Magnolia Pictures, you can still support your local indie theater while doing so. Visit Magnolia Pictures to find out how to share a portion of digital rental revenue with The Chelsea Theater in Chapel Hill.

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