DIRECTOR: Sam Pollard
WRITERS: Benjamin Hedin, Laura Tomaselli
STARRING: James Comey, Beverly Gage, Martin Luther King Jr. (Archive Footage)
MLK/FBI shares the assorted details of the wrath that FBI Director, J. Edgar Hoover, brought down upon King, and his vision for his people, Circa 1960’s. With actual archival footage of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and the story being shared by many, including James Comey, Former Director of the FBI, and Beverly Gage, Yale Professor who has studied J. Edgar Hoover, and his 48-year reign over the FBI at length, they share the extent of Hoover’s harassment of King, which seemed to be merciless, especially the last years of King’s life.
And as this film documents Hoover’s obsession with King, it also exposes some aspects of King’s life that many of us may not have focused on before now, as Hoover and the FBI’s investigation intensifies, tying King to the Communist Party, as he continues his close Friendship with Lawyer, and fellow Activist, Stanley Levinson. Yet, King is unyielding to Hoover’s request to distance himself from Levinson, even when Hoover explains that this could end up being the demise of King, which only infuriates Hoover more. And as Hoover intensifies his surveillance of King, viewing him as “The Black Messiah” that this country does not need, Hoover refocuses his attention to King’s personal life, bringing to light his many extra-marital affairs, that Hoover tries to use as leverage, threatening to disclose this information to his wife, and the masses, as a way to silence King, and his mission Civil Rights throughout our Nation.
In as poignant a way as possible, MLK/FBI brings the plight of the Civil Rights movement full circle too, as J. Edgar Hoover, and his G-men seem to spend many a waking hour in surveillance of King, and his “extracurricular activities”, in an attempt to diminish his power over the Negro population, alas wanting to expose his sinful ways, attempting to prove his was a sexual deviant within our society, which was contrary to Hoover’s straightlaced American values. Astonishing for me as I watched this film unfold, is that most of this information was put under lock and key, without Hoover getting to expose it, before King’s untimely death in 1969.
What I personally took away from Hoover’s intense surveillance of a man that was trying to bring together all races within this country, is that it very loudly seems to echo today’s “Black Lives Matter” movement, in how the “voice of the people”, is still not being heard, as is seems to be diminished still by our Federal Government, some 50+ years later.
But make no mistake, as when MLK/FBI brings to light the humanistic side of King, it also brings into glaring perspective the ways that J. Edgar Hoover, and the FBI, wiretapped King, in an attempt to dismantle his popularity, and destroy his vision, this film also manages to bring to light the other players of this cat and mouse game, that went on for years, with Bobby Kennedy, and President Lyndon B. Johnson’s exploits against King coming into clearer view too, thus making this film a staunch “reality check” in our Nation history, especially after King saw it important to publicly oppose the Vietnam War.
And as the experts throughout this film come to conclude by its end too, the true question is should the FBI’s invasive, yet investigative surveillance wiretaps of King, that are scheduled to be unsealed in 2027, be brought to light, or will they tarnish King’s vision and activism beyond repair, and end up bringing more discontent between the races of our nation, once they are?
All I do know, is this Documentary’s truthful candor is immersed on both sides of this equation, as MLK/FBI brings to light a time gone by, but with a glaring perspective of what still lies ahead for our Nation, making this one of the best Documentaries released this year, and one film which you should definitely view at either a theater near you, or on Amazon Prime at Home, this week too!