May 16, 2016 / 6:17 PM / 2 years ago

Love conquers all in film about historic civil rights case

CANNES, France (Reuters) - A story about banned inter-racial marriage might have been a golden opportunity for a tense courtroom drama, but U.S. director Jeff Nichols opted for a heatwarming love film now vying for the top Palme d‘Or prize at the Cannes Film Festival.

Director Jeff Nichols (L) poses with cast members Joel Edgerton (R) and Ruth Negga on the red carpet as they arrive for the screening of film "Loving" in competition at the 69th Cannes Film Festival in Cannes, France, May 16, 2016. REUTERS/Jean-Paul Pelissier

Nichols, who won critical acclaim for high-anxiety dramas like “Take Shelter” and “Midnight Special”, defies expectations in “Loving” by focusing on the power of love against all odds rather than clobbering viewers with racial politics.

It is based on the true story of a white man and a black woman from Virginia who get married in Washington D.C. in 1958. When they return home, they are first jailed then banished because inter-racial marriage is prohibited in Virginia at a time when racial segregation remains common in America. They relocate to Washington but struggle to adapt to city life.

Lawyers take their cause to the U.S. Supreme Court, which rules in 1967 that interracial marriage is unconstitutional, a historic civil rights decision that ends all race-based limits on marriage in the United States.

“It was very un-Hollywood in the sense that at certain moments, someone really drawn into the patina of Hollywood might have rearranged the truth in order to make it more Hollywood,” Australian actor Joel Edgerton, who plays Richard Loving, told a news conference on Monday.

“There was something so simple about the truth that allowed us ... a very nice guideline to find our way into the story.”

Edgerton pairs up with Ethiopia-born Irish actress Ruth Negga playing Mildred Loving. Her subtle performance has triggered speculation in Cannes that Negga could be up for an Academy Award.

“I looked at the story and it seemed very very obvious to me that we just needed to talk about the people,” said Nichols, who previously presented “Mud” and “Take Shelter” in Cannes.

“The court case is so fascinating in itself that it could be a movie. (But) I did not want to make a courtroom movie. I wanted to make a movie about two people in love. I hope it’s the quiet film of the year.”

“It humanises us,” Negga said. “It just shows the world that these things aren’t just boring, politicial ideas, they’re about individuals and humans.”

Editing by Mark Heinrich

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