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A film by Sam Pollard

106 min

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Synopsis

Based on recently declassified files, Oscar-nominated filmmaker Sam Pollard explores the US government's surveillance and harassment of Martin Luther King, Jr.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is remembered as an American hero: a bridge-builder, a shrewd political tactician, and a moral leader. Yet throughout his history-altering political career, he was often treated by U.S. intelligence and law enforcement agencies like an enemy of the state. In this virtuosic film, award-winning editor, and director Sam Pollard lays out a detailed account of the FBI surveillance that dogged King's activism throughout the '50s and '60s, fueled by the racist and red-baiting paranoia of J. Edgar Hoover. In crafting a rich archival tapestry, featuring some revelatory restored footage of King, Pollard urges us to remember that true American progress is always hard-won.

 

Press

"Sam Pollard’s fascinating documentary chronicles the F.B.I. director’s obsession with the private life and political affiliations of the civil rights leader... it’s an exemplary historical documentary — unafraid of moral judgment but also attentive to the fine grain of ambiguity that clings to the facts. It doesn’t force the preoccupations of the present onto the past, but rather invites you to think about how what happened then might help explain where we are now. The story took place a long time ago, but it isn’t finished." -A.O. Scott, THE NEW YORK TIMES

"I watched “MLK/FBI” for the second time on the same day my television filled with images of the Capitol being overrun by the kind of violent insurrectionists Hoover and his minions said the Civil Rights movement would incite. The film played no differently than when I saw it back in September at the New York Film Festival, which is truly sad. The archival footage Pollard uses has people saying the same things they’re saying today, and the same negative ideas are being thrown around in regard to the rights of Black and brown people. It feels like “Groundhog Day,” with no end to the cycle in sight. There’s a line in this film that sticks with me. It implies that nothing will change unless America deals with “the fear of Black people forcing a reckoning with the American past.” That reckoning is past due." -Odie Henderson, ROGEREBERT.COM

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