(Release Info London schedule; January 15th, 2020, Curzon Home Cinema)
"MLK/FBI" is the first film to uncover the extent of 'The FBI's' surveillance and harassment of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Based on newly discovered and declassified files, utilizing a trove of documents obtained through 'The Freedom Of Information Act' and unsealed by 'The National Archives', as well as revelatory restored footage, the documentary explores the government's history of targeting 'Black' activists, and the contested meaning behind some of our most cherished ideals. Featuring interviews with key cultural figures, including former 'FBI' Director James Comey, "MLK/FBI" tells this astonishing and tragic story with searing relevance to our current moment.
This documentary is about 'The Civil Rights Movement' to date. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. is one of the most iconic symbols of civil rights in 'The United States'. In 1987 and 1988 Dr. King went to Chicago to bring 'The Movement" from 'The South' to 'The North'. It's a wake up call to know that Dr. King wasn't always loved and embraced by 'The American' public. It's a continuation of our understanding of the contradictions in terms of how King is looked at today by most Americans, and how he was really looked at back then. One of those interesting things in the film is when Beverly Gage mentions the fact that there was a poll taken after King and Hoover met, the only time they ever met, about who was more popular. Hoover was much more popular than Dr. King. Most people forget that now, because Hoover is looked at as a pariah, but most Americans back then thought he was a hero. We embraced 'The American' notion of what 'The FBI' was all about. Watching 'The FBI' show on television, watching an old movie from 1959, Jimmy Stewart. 'The FBI' were heroes; beating the gangsters, fighting communism. 'The FBI' was so frightened and afraid of this man they're willing to go to any lengths to destroy his reputation. Something people overlook, is that the civil rights movement was not just Dr. King.
America always has to create one person who takes us to the mountaintop, when there were lots of foot soldiers in 'The Civil Rights' movement who got us to the ‘64 and ‘65 'Civil Rights Act', 'The Voting Rights Act', Fred Shuttlesworth and Ralph Abernathy and Dorothy Cotton and Fannie Lou Hamer, there were so many people, it wasn’t just King. He’s been made into the titular head. There’s more than one way to look at Dr. King, and at 'The Movement'. There's a very important distinction at the end of the film that 'The FBI' wasn't a rogue agency. King was pitted against the entire power structure of the government, in that 'The White House' was privy to the surveillance. But it goes back to this decision that was made in 1992, that in twenty-five years some of the documents collected by 'The Congressional Committee' investigating assassinations would be unsealed. Because they investigated both Kennedy and King's assassinations, when documents are released about one, there's always the other. 'The Congressional Committees' all knew about it. Nobody stopped it. So it was something that went just beyond 'The FBI-Headquarters' and the suspicion of King in the halls of power persisted for so long. You know, Reagan didn’t even want to sign the holiday into law.
We know, of course, there were allies in 'The Movement' who might be tipping off 'FBI' agents about King’s plans, but the new discoveries make it plain how coordinated and vast the bureau’s sources were. You get to a point where, on the night he died, for example, they’re not even tapping his phones anymore, they've such good informant coverage. All the same, it’s important to note that, given Hoover’s motives, you can never take anything that's in these files, even once they're declassified, at face value. One must always remember the source; where it comes from and why. What happens to people who are very important in our history is that over time they're revisited. A great example is how we grew up thinking Abraham Lincoln freed the slaves. Now, we learned over time that Lincoln didn’t initially want to free the slaves. It just became something that was necessary to win 'The Civil War'. In some ways he wasn’t 'The Great Liberator' or 'The Great Emancipator'. But has it really tarnished his reputation? Not really. You know, he's still considered one of the great American presidents. So the fact that we've known this already about Dr. King, that he was not a monogamous man, that he was a human being like everybody else. It's always interesting to learn the true story behind these organizations that we mythically make so heroic. The film looks at the complexity and the accuracy of 'The American' landscape in terms of the federal government. This film is a wakeup call for America, to understand how complicated this notion of being American is, and how complicated 'The FBI' is today.
It’s eerie how similar the crisis over 'Black' safety inequality in the period covered by the film feels today. And 'Civil Rights' issues are once again at the fore of 'The American' consciousness. We're a country that's always constantly struggling with the issues of race, because this country is founded on the backs of slaves. We've what we call a tipping point and a reckoning in America with Trump in office, with 'The Black Lives Matter' movement and the protests after the murder of George Floyd and the horrific murders that are taking place in this country. So it's extremely timely. But this film will always be timely, because America and the issues of race never leave. 'Black' men being murdered in the streets of America, by the police, is endemic. It happens every damn day. The work of administrations is to say there's chaos in the streets, get your weapons out because America is going to fall apart, it happens not only in 'The Republican' administrations, but it happens in 'Democratic' administrations. This is not unusual, but it's like a huge avalanche now. What Dr. King went through and what America's going through today is so connected. The importance of protesting speaks directly to what's happening in the streets of America today. Because this is America, quite honestly, and unless we've a real revolution, it's going to be the same cycle over and over and over again. Above all, it's what this story tells us about the American character. Especially right now.