Review: MLK/FBI

MLK FBI

Social media is abuzz with talk of MLK/FBI, a documentary that reveals the unbelievable behaviour of the American Government pertaining to the Civil Rights Movement. What is most shocking of all is the fact that for many of the movie’s revelations, nobody was able to provide any answers as to way things happened the way that they did.

Director Sam Pollard’s most recent work gives us all a sobering and essential glimpse into the government’s lengthy efforts to blackmail, discredit and disempower Dr Martin Luther King Jr. Perhaps the most revealing takeaway of all is the fact that J. Edgar Hoover, the Director of the FBI, used every cheap, easy trick at his disposal to try and take King down and that most of America was in full agreement with him.

This documentary allows for many different voices to be heard and several of them express sheer awe at the impact of Hoover’s 48-year reign over the FBI. During this time, Hoover was able to help shape a national identity based on a racist framework that was deemed perfectly acceptable by a large portion of society at the time. While Pollard does draw a great deal from David Garrow’s book The FBI and Martin Luther King Jr, he has managed to create an incredibly delicate cinematic framework for incorporating frightening aspects of Dr King’s story with a sense of immediacy.

Pollard has managed to construct a beautiful tale of Black activism that was constantly challenged by authorities. He has built this way of storytelling almost entirely out of the materials that were made available during this period of history, along with interviews that have been overlaid as voiceovers.

Just some of the footage that viewers can expect to see include King’s famous “I have a dream” speech at the Million Man March, tense confrontations with the White House and fragments of phone calls that have only recently been discovered. This results in an incredibly, in-depth look at how Martin Luther Jr rapidly emerged as an activist with a following so powerful that even the White House couldn’t ignore or avoid him. 

While the documentary is impactful, it is also very cautious about wading too much into some reports made by agents who wiretapped King’s phone. Pollard does not try to refute King’s personal shortcomings either, but he does expertly walk the delicate line between acknowledging these claims for what they are and illustrating how Hoover attempted to exploit them. They certainly weren’t superstition, but some were pushed to the edge of truth.

MLK/FBI does not set out to capture every step of King’s monumental journey. Instead, Sam Pollard works within a montage that allows King himself to explain his own incredible rise. This documentary does not lead up to one dramatic finish but instead starts up a conversation that is sure to keep tongues wagging.

The FBI gathered numerous covert tapes on Martin Luther King, all of which are due to be declassified in 2027. There is no way of knowing exactly what they will reveal but we are sure that once they are declassified, we can expect to uncover something as fascinating as what you’d find at online bingo sites and beyond.

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