Based on newly declassified files, Sam Pollard’s resonant film explores the US government’s surveillance and harassment of Martin Luther King, Jr.
Martin Luther King has been explored in numerous works over the years, from cinema to documentary to television, so finding a new angle to explore his life and his achievements would prove challenging to anyone. Fortunately for the filmmakers involved in ‘MLK/FBI’ a new angle became available recently when several FBI files were declassified, including information and tape recordings from an extensive wiretapping campaign undertaken by the FBI on Martin Luther King. That provides the focus for this new documentary, which is less an exploration of what new information was discovered about King, and more of an overview of the attempts of the FBI to discredit King and the movement he led.
The documentary adopts the talking head format to provide commentary on both the information uncovered, and insight on the practices of the FBI and what their aims were at the time. There’s a wide range of commentators, from King’s friend and personal counsel Clarence Jones, to recent FBI director James Comey, and this allows for a good balance of factual context and opinion. If you’re expecting a documentary about King and the civil rights movement this movie probably won’t scratch that itch, but if you want to find out more about how intelligence agencies operate through the prism of King then this is compelling viewing.
I thought ‘MLK/FBI’ was an interesting and informative documentary and I think it will make a good double bill with ‘One Night in Miami’, which is also now available to view from this weekend.
Directed By: Sam Pollard