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2023 Gotham Awards to Present George C. Wolfe’s Rustin With the Icon & Creator Tribute for Social Justice

by The Gotham Staff on September 13, 2023

The Gotham Awards Will Take Place in NYC on Monday, November 27, 2023 

New York, NY (September 14, 2023) – The Gotham Film & Media Institute announced today that Rustin, the upcoming Netflix film produced by President Barack and Michelle Obama’s Higher Ground, will receive the Icon & Creator Tribute for Social Justice at the 33rd annual Gotham Awards Ceremony, taking place live and in person on Monday, November 27, 2023 at Cipriani Wall Street in New York City. Nominees for the Gotham Awards will be announced on Tuesday, October 24th. The 2023 Gotham Awards submissions are open now.

The Icon & Creator Tribute was created for this year’s Gotham Awards in order to recognize cultural icons and the filmmakers responsible for bringing that icon’s story to life. With the Icon & Creator Tribute for Social Justice, The Gotham will honor Bayard Rustin, the activist, organizer of the 1968 March on Washington, and Presidential Medal of Freedom winner, while celebrating director George C. Wolfe and his remarkable achievement in bringing Rustin’s story to life.  

“For the 33rd annual Gotham Awards Ceremony, we’re thrilled to recognize both the inspiring hero of the civil rights movement, Bayard Rustin, and the remarkable film Rustin from George C. Wolfe, Netflix and Higher Ground,” said Jeffrey Sharp, Executive Director of The Gotham Film & Media Institute. “This beautifully crafted and moving film shines a light on the visionary contributions of a proud gay Black man on the heels of the 60th anniversary of the March on Washington.”

Wolfe’s Rustin follows the architect of 1963’s momentous March on Washington, Bayard Rustin, who was one of the greatest activists and organizers the world has ever known. Rustin challenged authority, never apologized for who he was, what he believed, or who he desired. And he did not back down. He made history, and in turn, he was forgotten by many. Directed by Wolfe and starring Emmy Award winner Colman Domingo, Rustin celebrates the extraordinary man who, alongside giants like the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr., Adam Clayton Powell Jr., and Ella Baker, dared to imagine a different world, and inspired a movement in a march toward freedom. Produced by Academy Award winner Bruce Cohen, Higher Ground’s Tonia Davis and George C. Wolfe, the film features an all-star cast including Chris Rock, Glynn Turman, Aml Ameen, Gus Halper, CCH Pounder, Da’Vine Joy Randolph, Johnny Ramey, Michael Potts, with Jeffrey Wright and Audra McDonald.

Born in 1912, Bayard Rustin was a visionary civil rights activist who was a close advisor to the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.  A staunch proponent of non-violent protest, in part due to his Quaker upbringing, Rustin was the driving force behind organizing the historic March on Washington in 1963. He worked with a number of groups through the years including serving as president of the A. Philip Randolph Institute, a civil rights organization in New York City, from 1966 to 1979. Of Rustin, King wrote to a colleague: “We are thoroughly committed to the method of nonviolence in our struggle and we are convinced that Bayard’s expertness and commitment in this area will be of inestimable value.” Later in life Rustin turned his attention to LGBTQ+ activism and its intersection with the continuing civil rights fight, and was the first to bring the AIDS crisis to the attention of the NAACP. He passed away in 1987. 

Because he was a gay man who was forced to live with the constraints and prejudices of the time – including beatings and arrests – his role in the movement was not widely publicized and thus the true significance of his contribution has been muted. He received recognition in 2013 when he was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Obama.

Renowned director, producer, and writer George C. Wolfe has firmly established himself as one of America’s most important and influential cultural voices. For Netflix, he directed August Wilson’s Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom starring Viola Davis and Chadwick Boseman, which was nominated for five Academy Awards and won two. For Wolfe’s Lackawanna Blues he received a DGA Award, four NAACP Image Awards and a National Board of Review Award. Wolfe served on the President’s Committee for the Arts and Humanities, is the Chief Creative Officer for the Center of Civil and Human Rights in Atlanta, and from 1993-2005, he was the Producer of The Public Theatre/New York Shakespeare Festival. Wolfe has won five Tony awards and directed 17 Broadway productions.

Following a September premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival, Netflix will release Rustin in November 2023.

Winners of the 33rd annual Gotham Awards will be honored at the awards ceremony at Cipriani Wall Street on Monday, November 27th. The Premier Sponsor of the 2023 Gotham Awards is Vanity Fair while Cadillac will serve as the Official Vehicle for the Awards. 

About The Gotham Film & Media Institute

The Gotham celebrates and nurtures independent film and media creators, providing career-building resources, access to industry influencers, and pathways to wider recognition. The organization, under the leadership of Executive Director and award-winning producer Jeffrey Sharp, fosters a vibrant and sustainable independent storytelling community through its year-round programs, which include Gotham Week, Gotham Labs, Filmmaker Magazine, the Gotham Awards, Gotham EDU, Owning It, and Expanding Communities.

About the Gotham Awards

The Gotham Awards, one of the leading honors for independent film and television, provides early acknowledgement to groundbreaking independent films and television series. Selected by distinguished juries and presented in New York City, the home of independent film, the Gotham Awards are the first honors of the film awards season. This public showcase honors the filmmaking community, expands the audience for independent films, and supports the work that The Gotham Film & Media Institute does behind the scenes throughout the year to bring such films to fruition.

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