John Lewis: Good Trouble Profiles Congressman

John Lewis in JOHN LEWIS: GOOD TROUBLE, a Magnolia Pictures release. © Ben Arnon. Photo courtesy of Magnolia Pictures.

John Lewis: Good Trouble profiles the life and career of the longtime congressman and civil rights activist from Georgia.

Lewis is no stranger to when it comes to being an activist for civil rights.  What we’ve been seeing on the streets over the past month is no different than what took place in the 1960s.  Lewis worked alongside the late Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  He was there on the bridge on Bloody Sunday and again when King made the walk from Selma to Montgomery.  I guess what I am trying to say is John Lewis is an American hero.  When one looks at the 1960s, Lewis is a figure that often gets placed next to Dr. King, Malcolm X, and other Civil Rights leaders.  What the documentary is able to achieve is a film that puts the activist/congressman front and center.

Most students of history know of Lewis’ involvement in the Civil Rights Movement.  We know about his history in Selma and with Dr. King.  But the 1960s are just one tiny snippet of a longer story.  Through this film, we get a bigger picture.  One that includes what would happen to Lewis following the 1960s.  The big challenge here is to present this in a way that is fresh to the viewer.  I believe that filmmaker Dawn Porter succeeds in this regard.  The fact that the film includes rarely seen archival footage should prove to be a benefit.

Filmmaker Dawn Porter turns to archive footage and contemporary interviews to tell the congressman’s story.  Cinéma verité style, of course.  This is a man who has been on the scene for over sixty years as an activist or legislator.  You can certainly make the argument that 96 minutes isn’t enough.  The film should really be longer if you ask me.  There is so much history but this documentary is just enough to get a brief glimpse into his life.  Yes, we learn about his past and how that plays into who he is.  At the same time, one cannot help but wonder what a longer project could achieve.  There’s an upcoming biography being written by Jon Meacham and will be published by Random House in October.

Lewis has been a leader in Congress when it comes to civil rights, voting rights, gun control, health-care reform and immigration.  Through Porter’s interviews, we learn what life was like for Lewis while growing up.  There is also his family life.  And of course, there is no telling of his story without discussing Lewis meeting Dr. King in 1957.  We also get interviews with other political leaders, colleagues, and those closest to him.  President Barack Obama appears by way of archival footage as his schedule didn’t allow for a sit-down interview.

John Lewis is often referred to as “The conscience of the Congress” and through watching John Lewis: Good Trouble, viewers will certainly understand why.

DIRECTOR:  Dawn Porter
FEATURING:  John Lewis, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Rashida Tlaib, Ayanna Pressley, Ilhan Omar, James Clyburn, Elijah Cummings, Stacey Abrams, Eric Holder, Cory Booker, Nancy Pelosi, Jim Sensenbrenner, Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, Hillary Rodham Clinton

Magnolia Pictures opens John Lewis: Good Trouble in theaters and VOD on July 3, 2020. Grade: 4/5

Danielle Solzman

Danielle Solzman is native of Louisville, KY, and holds a BA in Public Relations from Northern Kentucky University and a MA in Media Communications from Webster University. She roots for her beloved Kentucky Wildcats, St. Louis Cardinals, Indianapolis Colts, and Boston Celtics. Living less than a mile away from Wrigley Field in Chicago, she is an active reader (sports/entertainment/history/biographies/select fiction) and involved with the Chicago improv scene. She also sees many movies and reviews them. She has previously written for Redbird Rants, Wildcat Blue Nation, and Hidden Remote/Flicksided. From April 2016 through May 2017, her film reviews can be found on Creators.