HBO’s Original Movie Boycott’s an Underrated Masterpiece.
On February 20th, 2001 HBO premiered Boycott. The story of the famous Montgomery Bus Boycott that expanded to a universal movement for civil rights. The film was masterfully directed by actor\director Clark Johnson of Homicide: Life on The Street fame and had a cast that was so remarkable, and so believable that you totally forget that these are all actors playing these historic figures and just believe that you’re watching Martin Luther King Jr & Coretta Scott King, Ralph Abernathy, Rosa Parks, Bayard Rustin, E.D. Nixon etc. right there on the screen. With an interesting documentary style format, Boycott keeps it both real and stylish.
When Rosa Parks (Iris Little-Thomas) defiantly refuses to take a back seat, she sets into motion a tumultuous string of events centered around the 1955 bus boycott in Montgomery, Ala. Using archival footage to establish the strained atmosphere of the era, this dramatization of that chapter of the Civil Rights Movement’s history shows her interactions with such major figures as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. (Jeffrey Wright), Coretta Scott King (Carmen Ejogo) and Ralph Abernathy (Terrence Howard).
What really made this movie an amazing experience to watch is that incredible cast of all star actors. Jeffrey Wright, Terrence Howard, Carmen Ejogo, CCH Pounder, Reg E. Cathey, Erik Todd Dellums, Whitman Mayo and many more all gave excellent tributes to the real life courageous people they were portraying. Jeffrey Wright as Martin Luther King Jr. was naturally the anchor of this film and he embodied Dr. King with impeccable skill and precision. Wright masterfully portrayed the optimism, anguish and gravitas of Dr. King in ways that made you feel like you were watching the actual man onscreen. Everyone in the cast brought their A game to this film and honestly with one of them missing the film would’ve never been the same, but I have to say that Erik Todd Dellums was particularly excellent in the role of Bayard Rustin.
The film also boasts an eclectic and amazing soundtrack that was issued as a 3-disc CD album on the EMI Gospel label. It features recordings by Nat King Cole, Dizzy Gillespie, Kirk Franklin, Beverly Crawford, The Tri-City Singers, Karen Clark BeBe Winans with Stevie Wonder and and Mario Winans among others.
The film is a masterpiece from top to bottom yet remains overlooked. Perhaps because it’s a television film and surprisingly didn’t air on any cable network for years and years there’s a whole lot of people who have no idea of its existence. Despite it’s unfortunate lack of popularity it’s a film that not only stands the test of time but also set a new standard for biographical films with its unique documentary approach, stellar cast, and timeless themes. And for its monumental efforts the film was rewarded with a Peabody award in 2001 for “refusing to allow history to slip into ‘the past.”
Boycott is on DVD as well as available for viewing on Hulu and HBO Max among others. Ifyou have never seen this amazing film I highly recommend you get to it asap if you wanna celebrate Black History Month right!