John Lewis Good Trouble

The Mary Riepma Ross Media Arts Center reopened this past weekend for the first time since its coronavirus-related closure in March. A lot has happened in the months since then; notably, the United States lost one of its most beloved and influential political figures of the last century, Rep. John Lewis of Georgia. In honor of the work Lewis did over the course of his life, the documentary “John Lewis: Good Trouble” became one of the first films to open at the Ross, playing through Sept. 3.

“Good Trouble” was completed and released earlier this year, prior to Lewis’ passing. While the film does reflect on the life that Lewis lived, it also showcases Lewis going about his daily life and working as a congressman. The film was not made to be a posthumous tribute to the civil rights icon, but rather to be a look back at his life and a testament to his continued dedication to fighting for racial equality and justice. Though obviously unintentional, the recent passing of Lewis serves to make the film all the more poignant and resonant with viewers.

“Good Trouble” paints Lewis not as a giant among men, but rather as a man who simply had the courage to stand up for what he believed. It shows that Lewis, just like many other men and women in the 1960s and today, was someone who had seen enough of the injustices in our nation and decided to do something about it. The film personifies the legend and makes Lewis a relatable figure, which in turn makes the struggles of the man, and the United States as a whole, all the more real to the viewer. 

Rather than telling Lewis’ story in a linear fashion, the film jumps back and forth between his activism during the civil rights movement of the 1960s and his work as a congressman in the 21st century. It cuts from Lewis marching, participating in sit-ins and giving a speech at the March on Washington to taking meetings with his constituents, speaking to Congress and campaigning for individuals such as Stacey Abrams in the 2018 midterms. 

By actively jumping between Lewis’ work in the 1960s and today, “Good Trouble” makes it clear that the fight for equality and justice did not end with the civil rights movement. It shows that, though we have come a long way, there is still much to do. It serves to motivate the viewer to become active in their local community, get registered to vote and, when needed, not to be afraid to, in Lewis’ words, “get in good trouble, necessary trouble.”

“John Lewis: Good Trouble” is a documentary that is made to be enjoyed by everyone, no matter how much the viewer actually knows about the man prior to viewing it. To someone who is very familiar with Lewis and everything he did, the documentary serves to honor him and his legacy. It’s a testament to all his hard work and to the effect that he had on our nation. To someone who isn’t aware of all of the things Lewis did, the documentary is incredibly educational. It introduces Lewis and showcases how he, a Black man born and raised in rural Alabama, made an incredible difference in the world.

This is a documentary worth talking about. It starts discussions, educates and shows how Lewis was able to become the legend he was. It’s a film that should not only be shown in schools, but also is worth watching in the comfort of your own home. “Good Trouble” was absolutely stellar, and it does incredible justice to the story and legacy of the man at its core.