Boycott, originally released on HBO in early 2001, was directed by Clark Johnson. The film is based on the book "Daybreak of Freedom," by Stewart Burns. Starring in the film are Jeffrey Wright (Martin Luther King Jr.), Terrence Howard (Ralph Abernathy), Carmen Ejogo (Coretta King), Reg E. Cathey (E.D. Nixon), Iris Little Thomas (Rosa Parks), and C.C.H. Pounder (Jo Ann Robinson).
On December 1, 1955, when Rosa Parks refused to give up her bus seat to a white passenger in Montgomery, Alabama, events were set in motion that would change history and lead to the birth of the modern Civil Rights Movement. After Rosa's arrest and while waiting for her appeal, the Montgomery Improvement Association decides to start a boycott of the buses. To lead them, they elect Martin Luther King Jr., a new minister to the community. Lead them he does, with dramatic results – the boycott lasted 381 days and resulted in the Supreme Court ruling on November 13, 1956 that bus segregation was unconstitutional.
Having studied the Civil Rights Movement in college last semester, I jumped at the chance to learn more. To me, Martin Luther King Jr. has always been a heroic figure in American history, though rarely does it paint a more complete picture of him. This movie really fills in the gaps and makes him more real by portraying his struggle and conviction to the cause. The movie succeeds in being informative and entertaining, mainly from a great performance by Wright. The film does stumble here and there, however, as it attempts to be more documentary than drama in the film techniques the director chose to employ.
Boycott is presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. The film uses a variety of filming techniques to give it a documentary look. Some of these techniques use grain to give it an older, stock footage feel. For the most part, however, the transfer is clean throughout, with only some minor specks appearing infrequently. Colors are natural and vibrant, flesh tones are accurate, and blacks are rich and detailed.
Boycott is presented in Dolby 2.0 Surround in English and Dolby 2.0 Stereo in Spanish. The film is almost entirely dialogue driven, and as such, there's not much going on other than that. Background noises and the film's score both sound great. Dialogue throughout is clean with no distortion. Optional subtitles are available in English, French, and Spanish.
Unlike many HBO DVDs, Boycott has quite a few extras. The main one is an audio commentary with Johnson. He talks about making the film, it's production, the actors, stylistic choices involving the shooting, and his aspirations for it. He also points out the subtleties in the film that a viewer might miss and provides a historical context for the film. Overall, I really enjoyed the track and learned quite a bit.
Next up is a four-and-a-half minute featurette. While entirely promotional, it features interviews with many of the principals, including Johnson, Wright, Ejogo, Howard, Pounder, and Cathey. They mostly discuss the story, though they also do talk about Martin Luther King Jr.
Perhaps the coolest extra is an extensive text "Historical Background" section that is divided into six sections. Some of these include: Milestones in Civil Rights History, Time Capsule – Black with Humility, Who's Who – The Leaders, and Boycott by the Numbers. They are all terrific and very informative.
Also included are four cast and crew bios, a text list of book and video references, and a text list of weblinks.
Boycott is easily one of the better HBO films I've seen and is both informative and entertaining. HBO has provided a great presentation for the film, as well as some terrific extras. Highly Recommended viewing, either as a rental or a purchase.