Austin Film Festival: Director Jeff Nichols on Why 'Loving' Is "Kind of an Apolitical Film"

Courtesy of Focus Features
Jeff Nichols, Joel Edgerton

His film about pioneering interracial couple Richard and Mildred Loving opened the festival.

Loving director and writer Jeff Nichols wants audiences to remember that there are human beings at the center of the current debates about equality, he said Oct. 13 at the Austin Film Festival, where Loving screened as the opening-night film.

The film follows an interracial couple in the 1960s, Richard and Mildred Loving (played by Joel Edgerton and Ruth Negga), who get married and spend the next nine years fighting for the right to live as a family in their hometown.

“You know, we’re having huge debates about equality right now — marriage equality, racial equality. And the thing we have to remember as we’re getting behind our platforms thinking and arguing our points, which are very valid points, we have to remember that there are people at the center of all these,” said Nichols.

He feels his film accomplishes this by focusing on who the Lovings were as people, as opposed to focusing on the politics of the time. “I think it is kind of an apolitical film because they were apolitical people. They had no agenda, they weren’t trying to force us to feel anything or do anything, they just loved one another,” he said.

Even if he had been asked to focus his film more on civil rights, Nichols said he wouldn’t have done it because, as he sees it, “I’m a white guy born in 1978; I’m probably not the best person.” Instead, he decided to focus on the political climate in a more nuanced way.

He explained, “I had to do something to represent this very extreme situation that they were in, and I thought the most honest approach there would be to think about the psychological threat that they had to be living under.”

Ultimately, Nichols doesn’t expect people to change their political views based on his film, but, he said, “I do hope people will at least give pause and think about the center of these things,” adding, “hopefully that will affect the tenor of the situation.”